The Survivalist film review: end of days

Stephen Fingleton’s debut feature enters the apocalypse

A suspenseful, thoughtful and brutal post-apocalyptic thriller from Stephen Fingleton marks him out as one to watch. In the same way that Threads took a realist approach to depicting the end of civilisation, so does Fingleton, who takes great care in creating a world where nature still flourishes, but industry has collapsed. He superbly evokes a desperate mood in a future where money is no longer significant and nourishment is currency.

We meet a lone man (Martin McCann) who resides in a cabin going through his daily routine until he is interrupted by a mother and daughter, Kathryn (Olwen Fouere) and Milja (Mia Goth), who attempt to negotiate a deal with him to gain access to his crops.

Fingleton uses both sound and silence to great effect to create a haunting and tense ambience, and places his actors in tight spaces and then expansive countryside to elicit the sensation of their small part in the bigger scheme of things. The camera closes in on his characters and then wildly swoops upwards, making this both suffocating and striking viewing.

It also inserts surreal and haunting flourishes through deft camerawork and trickery. The sounds of the natural world trickle while the dialogue remains spare. At times its pared-down styling is reminiscent of Scott Graham’s Shell, which was another impressive debut feature.

Strong physical performances across the board from Goth, Fouere and McCann add to the intensity with their interactions proving to be particularly menacing. Their distrust in one another and the sense of paranoia is often palpable with occasional bursts of violence erupting, making for an edgy and jumpy experience.

Fingleton delivers an atmospheric and bold debut that poses smart, provocative questions abou the way in which the world is changing, and the way in which peak oil theory could turn into reality. It speaks volumes through its silence and lingers in the memory for a long while after watching.