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Review: Anthropocene (2020)

The Anthropocene Epoch is an unofficial unit of geologic time, used to describe the most recent period in Earth’s history when human activity started to have a significant impact on the planet’s climate and ecosystems.

National Geographic

I watched Anthropocene, the new film by Emir Skalonja (Holland Road Massacre: The Legend of Pigman, Casting Couch Slaughter) in an unusual manner. I streamed the premiere showing of it on Vimeo while the director, his co-writer and effects person Krystal Shenk, actress Kristina Santiago and a few others did a live stream on Facebook. It was like watching a DVD with the commentary on, except this was unrehearsed. More films should be seen this way, especially when alcohol is involved.

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Opening with a quote from the band Cattle Decapitation, Anthropocene takes place in a world where climate change has brought famine and drought to much of the world. Most of the water that’s left has become unsafe to drink. These conditions have not only brought down civilization as we know it, but they’ve also spawned a plague that’s killing those who are left alive.

Against this backdrop, Claire (Michelina Houlihan, Jericho) tries to stay alive while searching for food and clean water. Her interactions with other survivors make up the bulk of Anthropocene’s plot.

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As you might expect, most of these interactions are violent. Anthropocene features several graphic throat cuttings. There’s also dismemberment with a shovel, stabbings, beatings and some cannibalism. Krystal Shenk’s effects are well done. And as the character aptly known as Crazy Woman, she’s the cause of several of those effects.

It’s not all violent, though. There’s an effective scene between Claire and a man (Jimi Voelker, The Wilderness Night) who can’t bear to leave the place he buried his wife and child. It’s touching and well-acted. Michelina Houlihan also manages to pull off several fight scenes despite being several months pregnant during filming. The film as a whole is well done, with the local cast all pulling their weight. Kristina Santiago (Dick Johnson & Tommygun vs. The Cannibal Cop: Based on a True Story) gets a special mention for getting dirty while providing some T&A as one of the victims.

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Anthropocene is a very low-budget film, so don’t expect large-scale set pieces. It makes good use of the abandoned and crumbling industrial buildings of Western New York to provide the feel of a dying civilization. And, as Emir said in his live stream, the world isn’t going to end in mass battles against zombie hoards. It will be a lot of people struggling and dying, alone.

Currently, Anthropocene is available on Vimeo, with other platforms to come. You can check the film’s Facebook page for announcements.

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