Review: HOW TO SAVE US (2014)
Director Jason Trost (FP2: BEATS OF RAGE, ALL SUPERHEROES MUST DIE) takes ghost stories, post apocalypse films and family dramas and fuses them into the creepy and mesmerizing film, HOW TO SAVE US. A film which is full of both beauty and violence. Violence of the emotional kind I should add, the film itself is almost bloodless.
Tasmania, (this is an Australian film), has been evacuated and placed under quarantine after what is claimed to be the outbreak of a lethal virus. Brian’s younger brother Sam has gone missing in this outbreak. His sister barely escaped, telling tales of ghosts roaming the island and attacking people. Brian gets smuggled onto the island and goes looking for his brother, who is alive and searching for the cause of the ghostly infestation. The film cuts between their activities until they come together at the end for a resolution that is unexpected, even though some large hints are dropped along the way. Whether you find it silly or brilliant will be a personal matter.
Filmed for a mere $20,000, Trost had to get by on creativity and talent rather than showy effects. And creativity is not in short supply here. From the appearance of the ghosts to some of the means to avoid them. Such as covering yourself in human ashes to render yourself invisible to them. Or using the radio to detect their presence. Or killing them with an old Nintendo Game Glove. The evacuation angle lets him keep the cast down, both in terms of the living or dead bodies. It gives the film the feeling of such post-apocalypse films as THE QUIET EARTH or THE OMEGA MAN.
Basically a two-man film, much of the dialogue is voiceovers revealing what the characters are thinking. This is usually an annoying technique, but it makes sense here. Both brothers are alone and making records of their travels and activities. The acting is good, although there’s not a lot to do most of the time except to look convincingly scared during ghost attacks. Writer/director Trost comes off the better of the two as Brian, while Coy Jandreau does a good job in his first major role.
Whether you’ll like this as much as I did will depend on your tastes. If you need blood, gore and frequent deaths in your horror, you’ll be disappointed here. This is a film of suspense, with constantly growing tension and unease, not blood and a large body count. There are some good jump scares courtesy of the ghosts, so it’s not a totally cerebral film. Also, the ending will, as I indicated, leave some viewers rolling their eyes. While making things much more intense and emotionally chilling for others. If you can deal with the slower pace and non-traditional plotting and don’t need loads of effects, you should love HOW TO SAVE US.