Sponsor

New Release Review - THE SURVIVALIST

A survivor in a post-apocalyptic world reluctantly takes in a mysterious mother and daughter.

Review by Eric Hillis (@hilliseric)

Directed by: Stephen Fingleton

Starring: Mia Goth, Martin McCann, Olwyn Fouere



The Survivalist is an exemplary piece of low budget filmmaking. Experts will tell you to make the most of a tight budget by confining your action to a single, easily accessible location and a handful of characters. That's just what we get here, and writer-director Fingleton makes the most out of his limited means.



Movies set in the aftermath of a global collapse tend to open with a couple of title cards or a piece of voiceover narration filling us in on how the world got itself into a state where mohawks and leather boots have become the mainstream fashion items. The Survivalist is a movie that shuns such cheap exposition; instead it opens with a simple but very effective graph - two lines, one representing the world's population, the other oil production rates, rise and rise in tandem before plummeting at an equal rate. Debut writer-director Stephen Fingleton continues his storytelling in such economic yet visually arresting style throughout.
After we're informed of the state of the post peak oil world we're brought to a dense forest somewhere in Ireland, where a young man (Martin McCann) ekes out a living in his remote cabin. Where gasoline is the currency of George Miller's post-apocalyptic world, here it's vegetable seeds, which tells us just how far we've collapsed at this point. McCann's unnamed survivalist runs a modest farm on his property, violently dispatching intruders and dumping their corpses in a pit outside the perimeter of his self-contained world.
One day he's caught off guard by the arrival of a pair of women - the middle-aged Kathryn (Olwyn Fouere) and her teenage daughter Milja (Mia Goth). The survivalist is reluctant to take them in but the promise of sex with Milja, after seven years of masturbating to wallet-sized photos of his various victims' loved ones, is enough to convince him otherwise. Kathryn asks for one favour - the survivalist isn't to get her daughter pregnant; the pair are after his seeds, just not those ones.
The Survivalist is an exemplary piece of low budget filmmaking. Experts will tell you to make the most of a tight budget by confining your action to a single, easily accessible location and a handful of characters. That's just what we get here, and Fingleton makes the most out of his limited means. We don't see much of life beyond the cabin, yet the director manipulates us into believing it's a terrifying place. Tension and paranoia are increasingly heightened as our allegiances switch back and forth among as visually striking a trio of performers as you could possibly find - McCann with his haircut from hell, Fouere with her silver mane, and the ethereal beauty of Goth, the latter a case of nominative determinism if ever there were one.
The film's greatest achievement is in making us care about three characters that could well be the villains in most movies. The post-apocalyptic genre originally rose out of the ashes of the spaghetti western, and The Survivalist is very much of that lineage. In its locale and character dynamics, it's a scaled down, far more cinematic rival to Tarantino's The Hateful Eight. While Tarantino's film is very much the rambling, out of control work of an established director hanging himself with too much rope, Fingleton is working with a comparative shoe-lace, one he keeps tautly coiled throughout. In an era when so many filmmakers choose complex shots simply because they can, Fingleton's work here is positively classical, with every shot, cut and camera move serving a purpose. If there's any justice, his is a name we'll be seeing applied to a larger canvas soon.
Help support The Movie Waffler by sharing this post




discussion by