The Movie Waffler New Release Review (VOD) - SURVIVAL BOX | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review (VOD) - SURVIVAL BOX

survival box review
Following a party, a group of teens find themselves trapped in an underground bunker.

Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: William Scoular

Starring: Michala Brasseur, Jake Kenny-Byrne, Adam Moryto, Daniel von Diergardt, Boris Bilic, Jessica Cummings

survival box poster

When Jean-Paul Sartre postulated that Hell is being trapped in a room for all eternity with your friends, I don’t think the miserable old soak was on about my mates, who are all attractive, funny and interesting people that anyone would be fortunate to spend the rest of their lives with. The bunch of dicks in William Scoular (director) and Ashlin Halfnight’s (script and ace name) Survival Box are a different story, though. We meet this group of pampered, privileged preppies at a garden party taking place in the grounds of an actual mansion somewhere in Philadelphia. They’re a pretty interchangeable bunch: all immaculately coiffured, all white and all gleaming with that slick sheen of old money, a well-heeled polish which reflects their shiny and verdant surroundings. One of the kids pinches a cigarette off another, and another rocks up in a fast red car (I dunno, was it a Ferrari or something?). A ponce and a revhead. Can’t wait to see these nobs get their just desserts you’re thinking, as the smoking motif reaches a weird acme when the reveller casually tosses the purloined butt from a height and, in a rare flourish of imagination, we close up follow the dog-end as it tumbles through the air and smashes into sparks. Boom! Foreshadowing: these guys are gonna crash and burn!

survival box review

But then we cut to the after-party of the party, which is held in a big old nuclear bunker beneath the grounds: all budget busting lilac lighting, naff techno and scores of extras awkwardly dancing. A literal underground rave. And then it dawns on you: uh oh, these kids are meant to be aspirational. They are supposed to be, you know, cool. Then the party stops with such jolting suddenness that I had to scrub the screener back to check I hadn’t missed something (a compulsion repeated at least three times throughout the viewing). But no, somehow, despite this being a full-on shindig with free booze and plenty of attractive young people of both sexes, somehow most of the revellers have called it a night off screen, cutting to a handful of lingering party people scarfing a couple of pills in the dying embers of the revelry. They can’t even do drugs right, this lot. I’m no expert, but surely you’re meant to get on one at the start of the evening? Anyway, the point becomes moot because suddenly the big iron doors lock and the bunch (three posh boys, three posh girls and the rebel who drives the red car and has drugs) are locked in the bunker for the foreseeable. Sartre, eat your heart (hartre?) out!

And then they are stuck under there for just under a year: that’s the film. For the first act no one is sure of what to do, least of all the filmmakers. There are intimations that the nuclear strike has been caused by Mr. Trump’s childish baiting of North Korea (an uncomfortable realisation: the extent of how resigned we’ve all become to the inevitability of apocalypse over the last few years, so much so that even jejune flicks like this can use ad-hoc nuclear war as a completely convincing plot trigger). There isn’t any way to know for certain though, as there is no radio contact or anything (there are, as we are reminded twice, ‘tampons’, though: gritty).

survival box review

Survival Box continues, regardless. One of the bunch leaves and gets killed to death by radiation. Another one is pregnant, which really should have been the entire focus of the plot, however the film prefers to indulge the fantasy of one of the boys imagining he is above ground and running through the forests. He even paints a tree - a big green cloud with a thick brown trunk, like a small child with learning difficulties would do - on a canvas, upon which the remaining teens carefully scribe the names of their number who eventually perish underground (I like to think of myself as a kind hearted person, so every time they cut back to this crudely painted tree, which I believe was meant to be moving, I felt bad for laughing. But laugh I did).

Depending, presumably, upon what the mood was on set during a given day’s filming, the gang oscillate between panic and a calm, almost smug, acceptance of their lot. It does get good when they begin to get ill but that happens far too near to the end. Over the supposed months none of the cast ever look less than completely box fresh: the amateur artist/wannabe jogger even has a lovely Harry Styles circa 2010 quiff, which you just know requires lots of hairspray and patience to achieve each morning.

survival box review

The Lord of the Flies-esque idea, of kids being left to their own devices and imploding, has intrigue, but Survival Box leaves its potential unexplored (if you are the sort of person who enjoys seeing privileged and attractive teens go to shit while trapped in a bunker then may I recommend 2001’s Keira Knightley vehicle The Hole - a deeply unpleasant gem). Perhaps the Survival Box is in itself a gruelling art imitates life filmic experiment: how long can the audience bear to be stuck underground with these bores? After 20 minutes I was prepared to take my chances with the radiation.

Survival Box is on VOD September 3rd.

2019 movie reviews