A debut feature from writer-director Scott Lyus, this is a depopulated, outdoorsy apocalypse movie with an unusual hook – and also, given the circumstances, an unusual, welcome attitude. Yes, some cataclysm has lead to the downfall of civilisation, the disappearance or death of the bulk of humanity, the presence of insect/alien/demons who are getting cleverer and more daring as they prey on survivors, and the rise of eligious doomsday cultists given to ranting at people that it’s all their fault … but that’s no reason to be completely miserable about it. Above the portal to Hell is supposed to be the sign ‘abandon all hope’, but this finds hope even in the mysteriously doomy circumstances – which evoke The Mist (a memorable exchange from that is paraphrased) or A Quiet Place as much as The Rapture or Left Behind, but also fit in with a recent run of micro-focus end-of-all-things pictures (Glorious, Revealer).
Blair (Sophia Eleni) walks through green, damp countryside – sometimes poking about the abandoned relocation centres with their cheery, torn, ignored signage and dumped boxes of emergency supplies … sometimes evading the monsters (who are actually one monster, played of course by James Swanton and created by Dan Martin), sometimes putting on a walkman and having a little dance (for a low-budget, hand-to-mouth Britfilm, this has excellent, unfamiliar music selections). She finds a working walkie-talkie and experimentally turns it on, which puts her in touch with Tommy (Reece Douglas), another survivor of losses too great to bear thinking about, who is also making his way to nowhere in particular. They get chatting, not having any other conversational options, and decide to rendezvous at Tommy’s family’s old holiday cottage, a few days’ walk away, saving their batteries by only talking three times a day at scheduled intervals. Lyus intercuts the duo’s adventures – both have skirmishes with dangerous or deluded survivors and the increasingly daring monsters – as they walk towards each other.
After the gun-happy cynicism of a whole raft of American survivalist movies, it makes a change to find an apocalypse that hasn’t completely taken kindness, compassion and warmth off the board. There’s always danger, though the monsters sometimes seem frail and half-hearted in their attacks (perhaps because the main characters have to stay alive till the last reel), but the overall tone is sweet. The leads are good – so much of the film depends on them that Lyus has gone with experienced actors – and there are vivid one-scene bits for Diane Spencer, Francesca Louise White and Johnny Vivash. It makes excellent use of the countryside – the location finder has done a sterling job of finding credibly abandoned, yet picturesque farms, churches, village halls, cottages and fields. Not many UK horror films would make a decent template for a walking tour, but this would.