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Last Survivors 2021 Movie Review Poster Trailer Online
Written by Josh Janowicz and directed by Drew Mylrea, Last Survivors had its world premiere at Arrow Video FrightFest’s Halloween event. The film makes an interesting addition to the line-up, and whilst not a “horror” film in the textbook definition of the genre, it aligns perfectly with the FrightFest mantra of championing the dark heart of cinema. Initially green-lit before the pandemic, Last Survivors is a movie that almost didn’t make it into being. With so many Covid related setbacks and issues, it was through pure will power and positive thought that the project was finally able to be shot. When a gap finally opened up enough around lockdowns and Covid restrictions, Mylrea and his team of cast and crew seized the opportunity and descended into rural Montana to capture this almost Biblical story about a father and son.
Playing that father and son are True Blood’s Stephen Moyer and Pretty Little Liars’ Drew Van Acker. In the wake of World War III, Troy (Moyer) bundled his son Jake (Acker) into a car and fled their home city to a more rural setting. For twenty years the two men have existed in isolation, completely off the grid, and have created for themselves a nice little patch of bliss. This serenity is rudely interrupted by the arrival of outsider Henrietta (played by Alicia Silverstone), a woman who ignites an intense curiosity in Jake, causing tension between parent and child, and placing all three on a one way course to disaster.
The foundations of Last Survivors lie with the trio of Troy, Jake, and Henrietta. The entire film revolves around the separate relationships between Jake and his father, and Jake and Henrietta. Each is handled in a slightly different way, offering contrast, and yet some also strange similarities between both. The differences are plain to see, there’s a power imbalance within Troy and Jake’s homelife with Troy fully inhabiting the role of patriarch. The two men live their lives strictly to the routine devised by Troy. It is only after Troy ends up injured that Jake is able to do things for himself and it’s during his first real separation from his dad that he encounters and immediately likes Henrietta. The power imbalance in this relationship comes in the form of knowledge disparity; Henrietta knows more than Jake. In spite of being strangers, there’s a warm feel to the encounters here. Henrietta is the first woman that Jake has encountered in years, the absence of women in his life simultaneously manifesting feelings that are maternal and lustful in nature. This tangled combination of thoughts results in some very interesting scenes between the pair. What Troy and Henrietta share is the way in which they treat Jake as though he were still a child, and not the twenty-something that he actually is.
Upon returning to Troy, Jake is changed, his eyes opened by his new experiences and with that comes – for the first time in their history – questions. As Jake starts to go through his rebellious teen period about ten years later than most, the father and son bond is stressed and stretched to its limit. Troy believes all “Outsiders” should be eradicated, their demise the only way to ensure the safety of the environment that they have created. For the first time Jake begins to waver on this mantra and the pushback creates some brilliant moments of tension and threat between the family members. Fathers turning on sons, and sons turning on fathers, are themes that have been around since the Bible, and in places, Last Survivors certainly ventures into Biblical territory. It is in these moments that the film gets really exciting.
As Last Survivors places so much onus on the character dynamics, it is important that the actors are up to the challenge and in Silverstone, Moyer, and Acker the film has a competent trio. With the pandemic putting a stop to a lot of acting work, the three actors clearly relished the chance at an opportunity to do what they love and each give their all to the roles. Moyer plays the part of stern father with aplomb, his portrayal akin to Supernatural’s John Winchester, another man who dragged his sons into an atypical mission. Silverstone is wonderfully subtle as Henrietta. There’s much more to her character than initially shown and Silverstone communicates the complexities of the role perfectly. Last Survivors is Jake’s film though, and by extension Acker’s. Jake goes on such a journey during the film that Acker is faced with a gauntlet of emotions and the actor attacks the role with everything he has to create a character that the audience can identify and sympathise with.
The world that Last Survivors is set within is also a key component, and in shooting during the pandemic, Mylrea might have actually struck gold. This is a story that relies on isolation and being remote to work, and by filming during a period when the world was essentially on one global timeout, some of that cold and loneliness seeps into frame. Mylrea has capitalised on the natural atmosphere that was hanging heavy in the air, and in doing so has generated the perfect eerie setting for the story. A haunting soundtrack from Baker Grace further emphasises the emotional core of the film, every element working together to draw the viewer into the weird situation that our characters are living within.
There’s more in motion than one might think, with director Mylrea opening encouraging the viewer to reach in and draw out some aspects for themselves. With so much to uncover, Last Survivors benefits from repeat viewing, but still works well enough the first time around. A trio of fine performances communicate the emotional heft of a story riddled with Biblical musings making Last Survivors a fine addition to the apocalypse / survivalist thriller genre.