“The Last Survivors” is drought’s worst-case scenario — and it looks pretty bad
Welcome back to Green Screen, where Grist writers free their inner film buffs to talk movies, television, video games, and whatever other heretofore undiscovered screen-based media forms. This week, we turn to indie post-apocalyptic thriller The Last Survivors, directed by Thomas S. Hammock and written by Hammock and Jacob Forman.
What makes it green: The Last Survivors depicts everyone’s (just ours? OK, fine) water privatization nightmare: It hasn’t rained in 10 years; agriculture of any kind is a long-forgotten coke dream; and one pretty creepy and very weird guy (Jon Gries) somehow owns all of the water in “The Valley,” sucks it up and hoards it at his Water Headquarters, and roams around with a surly ginge daughter and a team of Sand People to kill off any ancillary humans who might dare to drink it up.
What we liked about it: What can I say — I’m a sucker for a good desert-y apocalyptic landscape. I regularly watch the music videos for “Run The World (Girls)” and “Bad Girls” and still think to myself, “Yes — this looks very good” each time. “The Last Survivors” takes place in pretty much the most parched, inhospitable setting imaginable, so I was on board from the first sun-bleached, dusty shot.
In a world where everyone is hazy-eyed and foamy-mouthed with declarations of “MOST FEMINIST CHARACTER OUT,” I can still say without hesitation that protagonist Kendal (appealingly played, I thought, by Haley Lu Richardson) is truly a badass bitch. I have nothing but respect for a woman who is able to slay a single foe with nothing less than a rifle, a sword, a pocket knife, and a hatchet. (Efficiency is clearly not the priority here, but no one ever said efficiency made for a good killin’ scene.)
But seriously: The girl protects her dwindling water supply and her invalid, bed-ridden buddy (Booboo Stewart) with truly impressive fervor, while — in a land with literally no spare water — somehow maintaining impeccably conditioned hair. She also gives few enough fucks to say to above-mentioned invalid buddy, when he presses her about why she hadn’t disclosed how dire their situation truly was, essentially: “Well, I thought you’d be dead already.” Spoiler: This is possibly the best moment of the entire film.
What we were less fond of: As my more nitpicky viewing partner pointed out, little things like character development and natural human dialogue are pretty lacking here. The cast of secondary characters are basically Limping Bedridden Pal, Evil Water Mogul, His Vain Daughter, Morally Void Priest, Small Wily Child, and things never really go much deeper than that. Sometimes, however, you’re not in the mood for a nuanced or thought-provoking take on water scarcity, utility privatization, and death. You’re in the mood to see a girl go full samurai on a dude wearing Cillian Murphy’s headgear from Batman Begins.
And if you’re in the mood for that nuanced, thought-provoking stuff — well, you’ve come to the right place!
The Last Survivors, which premiered at Film Independent’s 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival, will be released in theaters by MPI on Aug. 4.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article misstated the director’s last name as Haddock. The author has been sentenced to 10 days on a fishing boat off the shore of Maine.