Scott Lyus’ Walking Against The Rain opens with text which sounds like a quote from the Biblical Book of Revelation (although it is in fact of the filmmaker’s invention), about the defiant ones knowing ‘great pain’, and beasts risen from the abyss to destroy men while leaving the rest of the natural world untouched. Sure enough this is a film of a post-(or at least mid-)apocalyptic stamp, where aggressive creatures (played by James Swanton) wander an otherwise idyllic English countryside doing bloody murder to anyone whose path they cross. Resembling the xenomorphs from the Alien franchise, these creatures seem to have just arrived without warning – although a cult has since emerged relating them to the doom-laden forecasts of the New Testament’s final book – and, like the monsters in John Krasinki’s A Quiet Place (2018), have rapidly taken out most of the world’s human population.
Yet Walking Against The Rain is far more concerned – at least until its well signposted but still jaw-dropping final seconds – with those left behind. Sparsely distributed across the landscape, these defiant folk are either religious ‘crazies’, dehumanised drifters or just ordinary people struggling to keep it together and stay alive through occasional scavenging missions and a careful avoidance of others, whether alien or human. One such survivor is Blair (Sophia Eleni), living alone in a yurt ever since the death of her beloved mother, and clearly all at once relieved, excited and overjoyed to pick up a radio message from complete stranger Tommy (Reece Douglas) after many months of total isolation. The pair agree to rendez-vous at a cabin where Tommy spent his childhood vacations beneath the ominously named Leviathan’s Peak, and set off separately on foot for the long journey, staying in touch on the walkie-talkies which, along with humanity, are slowly dying.
Before they eventually meet each other, they will variously encounter a manic zealot (Diane Spencer), a feral traveller (Francesca Louise White), and an old farmer (Johnny Vivash), all of whom, including the two main characters, are like walking dead – broken, deeply damaged people weighed down by survivor’s guilt and the trauma of their recent experience. For everyone here has been left in a shell-shocked state by what they have witnessed, and clings with bleak nostalgia to a past forever lost while abandoning any hope for the sort of sanctuary that was initially promised by authorities long since vanished. It is this air of grimly intense sadness, far more than any toothy death, that is the ‘great pain’ referenced by the opening text, and it permeates Lyus’ film, setting its melancholic tone (as does Mitch Bain’s lyrical score).
Every age rewrites the Book of Revelation in its own image. Blair may dream of settling into an old farmhouse with Tommy – “one that”, as she put it, “hasn’t burned in this plague” – but they are themselves burning bridges and buildings as they travel their road to nowhere. That word ‘plague’ seems key to a film that keeps evoking the isolation and annihilation of the recent pandemic. “Watching the person you love more than anything else in the world fade away, knowing there’s nothing you can do,” says the old farmer of the particular apocalypse that has been visited upon his world. “And every day since then it’s eaten away at me like a disease.” In a socially distanced scenario whose two principal characters are confined to communicating with each other remotely, only despair, death and oblivion never seem far away – while the Coronavirus is embodied by monsters who can pop up anywhere at any time, and spare or kill without rhyme or reason.
Walking Against The Rain is a low-budget creature feature that brings everyday people into contact with the end times, and suggests that the better feelings which perhaps define us – not only our longing for togetherness and companionship but also our strength, love and compassion – may be short-lived, even if we can ever defiantly smile in the face of of our own mortality.
Walking Against The Rain had its world première at FrightFest 2022