Director: Stephen Fingleton
Movies tend to have an innate ability to elicit an emotional response from the audience, assuming the film is any good of course. You can feel angry or scared or even frustrated, all of these emotions should be by design, again we are assuming the Director and Editor are competent. Some movies, though, manage to go that one extra step, they not only want you to feel something, but want you to ask yourself, “What would you do given the circumstances?” Not all movies have the ability to ask this question of its viewers. Joss Whedon cannot ask the audience to visualize how they would react to seeing Captain America for instance, ever so often though, a movie is plausible enough that you cannot help but ask the question over and over. Netflix offers us such a film in the form of The Survivalist, a 2015 gem that asks you if you can survive alone in a cabin in the woods.
The Survivalist serves as a double meaning, it is the title of the film and the name designated to the protagonist, a man whose true name we never learn. The Survivalist (Martin McCann) lives alone in a cabin growing crops to get by. We learn through the opening credits that world as we know it is gone, likely due to overpopulation, so a simple life in the woods is not likely a decision the survivalist made by choice. We observe him as he goes about his usual mundane routine of bathing, checking his crops and of course, disposing the corpse of a trespasser, times are tough it would seem. One day, the survivalist is courted by two women (Mia Goth and Olwen Fouere), who quite literally just show up at his front door. They ask him for food and offer items to trade, the survivalist doesn’t want items, but he does want company, if you know what I mean, he is of course unsure if these women can be trusted. The survivalist must decide if he should go on living alone or form an uneasy alliance with these women. Will there be enough food for all of them? Are there safety in numbers? What would you do?
This is a film done right. It is a basic plot, can this man survive in this post-apocalyptic world? The world itself is merely the woods immediately surrounding his cabin, what little we are able to discern on the film is clearly defined. We know where his food is, we know where he buries trespassers and we know where he bathes and washes his clothes. This is all a film like this really needs, it is a story that wants you to imagine what it must be like to live with the constant threat of robbers and murderers stumbling upon your small plot of land. The introduction of the two women, throws a cog in the gears of his daily routines, we forget in films like these just how lonely and desperate we would feel, how we would long for the touch of a man or woman. The development of the characters is excellent, there is very little exposition, they never really discuss how the world is or what happened, because in their small lives none of that really matters, all that matters is staying alive.
This isn’t a CGI driven film, it is a movie with a small budget that attempts to provide you with a glimpse of someone else’s world. The tension in the film isn’t due to the fright of running away from a monster, but rather, the tension is deciding how you want to use your last round of ammunition. If you enjoy a slower paced thriller with good character development you might want to stream this one on your Netflix.