Made under the enigmatic title SHTF – which isn’t quite explained in the film, but I’d guess stands for ‘Something Happened to Father’ – this has wound up with a pretty generic title, easy to confuse with The Last Survivors, which was a retitling of a 2014 post-apocalypse movie called The Well, or the other Last Survivors, a 1975 disaster-at-sea movie. Written by Josh Janowicz – previously best known for his role as ‘hot priest’ in Charlie’s Angels Full Throttle – and directed by Drew Mylrea (Spy Intervention), this has echoes of several recent movies about survivalist parents and questioning kids (Leave No Trace, Gaia) but goes its own way after about the fifteen-minute mark.
Deep in the woods/up a mountain, grizzled Troy (Stephen Moyer) has raised his son Jake (an improbably ripped/groomed Drew Van Acker) to adulthood to be wary of outsiders. They’ve fled a catastrophe that has reduced the world to Mad Max style barbarism, and Troy has been following the Ray Milland/Panic in Year Zero playbook of shooting first while harbouring all possible resources in a fortified cabin where a copy of Swiss Family Robinson is stored alongside canned food and home-made mantraps. When Troy is wounded in an altercation with the latest gun-toting interloper, Jake has to forage for medicines at a farm a hike down the mountain – which turns out not to be abandoned, but home to Henrietta (Alicia Silverstone), another fugitive from another sort of collapse. Jake can’t bring himself to follow orders and shoot the woman dead, and she tentatively introduces him to some of the fripperies – chilis in stew, ruminative talk about religion, sex — his father has eliminated from their lives. A question starts to nag Jake – is his Dad an improved version of the post-apocalypse father of The Road or just a misanthrope seeking an excuse to become a serial killer?
Though Moyer and Silverstone are good as representatives of two (fairly loopy) ways of coping with an end of the world, Van Acker is a bit of a blank in the lead (he comes on a bit like Brendan Fraser in Blast from the Past, shorn of any warmth or humour) and the film occasionally errs on the side of having Jake and Henrietta talk through its themes in a manner the taciturn Troy would disdain. As ever, the mountain scenery looks wonderful – and there’s a little more to the set-up than the film lets on.