The Survivalist Review: A Competent, Routine Dystopian Thriller

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There’s really nothing remarkable about The Survivalist, there’s just also nothing outwardly bad about it either. As far as indie genre films go, this one is kind of just there in a murky middle section. It’s kind of astounding, actually. Whether a post-apocalyptic film is being made for money or because a director found a new way to tackle the genre, there’s usually something that goes very wrong or very right. But director Stephen Fingleton has other ideas.

We open in a dystopian world where our unnamed lead (Martin McCann), is living in a cabin in the woods, farming for food and staring at a photo of his dead long-dead love for some very basic character work. After about 20 minutes of rummaging, a mother and daughter (Olwen Fouere and Mia Goth, respectively) show up at his door. The man and Milja, the daughter, soon start a relationship, pitting him against her mother as they scheme around each other in this dangerous world.

The performances do their job, but not much else. The script includes some interesting ethical quandaries, but explores them emotionlessly. Nothing new is really added to the genre, but Fingleton goes through the tropes fairly well without leaning too hard on the cliches. There’s not really any political significance, besides some hastily drawn moments of female empowerment. The Survivalist is as plain as a relatively competent film can be. In and of itself, that’s frustrating, but I guess you could do worse to kill 100 minutes. In this case though, worse might even be more interesting. Grade: C

By Matt Dougherty

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