LAST SURVIVORS Review; "Both An Edge Of Your Seat Thriller And A Fascinating Character Study"

Last Survivors is a new post-apocalyptic thriller starring Alicia Silverstone that arrives in theatres and On Demand February 4, but what about this movie makes it stand out from that crowded genre?

Straight off the bat, it’s important to note that Last Survivors is far from your typical post-apocalyptic movie. Yes, it takes place in the aftermath of World War III and is set in snowy surroundings (similar to The Road, for example), but there’s a twist and tonal shift early on that helps ensure director Drew Mylrea’s contribution to the genre is fresh, wildly unexpected, and a compelling viewing experience from start to finish. 

The movie picks up with Troy (Stephen Moyer) and his adult son, Jake (Drew Van Acker), deep in the forest in what, on the surface, seems like the perfect utopia from what’s happened to humanity. However, when Troy is wounded, Jake travels to the outside world to find life-saving medicine and crosses paths with a mysterious woman called Henrietta (Alicia Silverstone) who, despite his father’s wishes, he befriends rather than kills. That’s unacceptable to Troy and we soon learn he’s more than willing to do what it takes to get rid of his son’s newfound love if it means successfully protecting the safe haven he’s created. Throughout, Last Survivors delivers both a fascinating exploration of the relationship between father and son and Jake’s clear fascination with the first woman he’s crossed paths with as an adult. 

The fact he mourns for his mother and Henrietta is old enough to be his mom adds some fascinating, but not explicitly addressed, layers to their dynamic, especially when things take a more romantic turn. That’s not to suggest there’s anything creepy or untoward about their relationship, and as we learn more about Henrietta’s life, it becomes clear their feelings for each other are more complex than they appear on the surface as both look to fill certain voids in their lives. Last Survivors isn’t an action-packed blockbuster full of post-apocalyptic zombies or gangs of deranged survivors, but is all the better for it as this self-contained story exploring its three leads provides more thrills and surprises than any of the clichéd ideas you might go in expecting.

Moyer is very good as Troy, effectively driving home the impact the apparent fall of humanity has had on him. Early on, we start seeing hints of darkness within, and his complex relationship with his son is one the actor effectively portrays on screen, particularly when the perfect reality he’s created for them starts to show some cracks. Is he just trying to do the right thing for his kid or manipulating and controlling him for his own selfish means? That’s a question the movie explores in a thorough manner thanks to Josh Janowicz’s thought-provoking screenplay. Drew Van Acker, who many of you will likely remember as Titans’ Aqualad, is excellent as a young man looking to appease his father, but find his own place in the world. You can believe he wants to escape Troy’s shadow, even with the consequences that might follow, and the reaction from Acker's character to what he discovers outside the forest are a pleasure to watch, particularly given Jake’s almost childlike innocence.

However, of the three leads, Alicia Silverstone steals the show with a beautiful performance that serves as a quick reminder of what a talent she is on screen. Like Jake, Henrietta is also looking to escape, and while her story concludes in a way that’s somewhat disappointing (depending on your point of view, in fairness), Silverstone's work up until that point makes it easier to buy into what we’d argue is one of Last Survivors’ weaker moments. There are so many fascinating aspects to her performance that it's easy to become as lost in her presence as Jake does. 

With a surprisingly scant 98 minute runtime, there’s not quite enough space to fully explore Last Survivors’ bigger ideas and it’s a movie that suffers whenever it even briefly starts treading down some of those familiar post-apocalyptic routes. The sudden shift in tone works perfectly, though, but a slightly more in-depth exploration of Jake’s discovery of the wider world could have helped elevate that aspect of the story. Despite the apparent time and budget constraints, the story being told is handled effectively within that hour and a half, building to an almost entirely satisfying ending that ensures this lowkey thriller will stick with you long after the credits roll.

Both an edge of your seat thriller and a fascinating character study, Last Survivors could have done with a little more time to explore its loftier ideas, but proves itself an engaging experience with a superb performance from Alicia Silverstone.


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