‘The world didn’t make you a bad person, Judith – you did that all on your own.’
A low-key post-apocalypse movie – there are boil-ridden berserker plague survivors about, but they haven’t turned into cannibal-zombie-vampire creatures – which gives scavenger heroine Anna (Lulu Antiriksa) a tough choice between several unappealing ways of getting along after the fall of civilisation. Early on, she loses her devoted brother David (Roshon Fegan) to cowled feral marauders – then seems to luck out when she falls in with presentable Peter (Colin O’Donoghue), a scout for a well-organised religious community run by elders Judith (Mimi Rogers) and Zack (Jeff Kober). In a tense face-off with the usual lecherous scuzzbos who want to claim Anna as a toll for passing through their territory, Peter shows post-apocalypse knife-fighting skills and generall seems a great catch … but Anna can’t help but feel leery of the good people of the community, with all their talk of the will of God, and gets a sense that her rescuer is becoming too proprietorial over her in a society where all the other women are too old or young to interest him. The elders also debate about what to do with a captured berserker, who talks only in whistled – at least until Anna recognises him as her brother’s murderer and starts asking him about how things got to this situation.
Though it’s not as deep-frozen an art movie as, say, The Road or even It Comes at Night, What Still Remains is more on the contemplative side of end-of-the-world picture, with a rough-hewn, Survivors-y look rather than punk armour and gore. Even the battles are punctuated with philosophical chats and musings about the way of the world. Late in the day, when all the factions experience crises – and Anna finally shows some more grit of her own – even the hard-won new beginning falls apart … and the film looks westward, where it’s hinted that the ‘changed’ are worse than berserkers but the tall trees and the wilderness look reasonably attractive. Antariska is an interesting protagonist, though writer-director Josh Mendoza has her hold her true feelings back for most of the film. Though we’ve seen dozens of post-apocalypse hypocritical community leaders in recent years – The Walking Dead get through two or three a season – veterans Kober, who will always be ‘Ray from Reef Radio’ to a generation of UK cinemagoers, and Rogers, calling back to her career highlight role in The Rapture, are welcome, persuasive, sinister, duplicitous presences.