'How to Save Us': Film Review
Jason Trost stars in his sci-fi horror film about a man searching for his missing brother in a post-apocalyptic landscape
Judging by the recent Mad Max: Fury Road and now How to Save Us, Jason Trost's new horror/sci-fi film, Australia seems to be ground zero for post-apocalyptic nightmare scenarios. The latest effort from the filmmaker responsible for such cult films as The FP and All Superheroes Must Die is another micro-budgeted genre exercise that displays considerable imagination even while not fully realizing its audacious concept.
The writer/director also plays the lead role of Brian, the eyepatch-wearing brother of Sam (Coy Jandreau), who has gone missing on the island of Tasmania during a mysterious outbreak of what the government describes as a "virus." Implored by his sister (Tallay Wickham) to search for their missing sibling and armed with a notebook sent by Sam, emblazoned with the phrase that gives the film its title, Brian heads to the abandoned island in search of answers.
It turns out the area has been invaded by an army of malevolent ghosts, but Sam has helpfully provided some safety tips. "Graveyards are safe," he advises, and humans can avoid detection by covering themselves with the ashes of the dead. The ghosts can be heard on the radio (Brian dutifully totes a transistor version blaring old pop and country songs); they're averse to electricity (he wears an old Nintendo Power Glove); and they can be seen via infrared cameras.
The film is essentially a one-man show, with Trost's character slowly navigating the desolate but picturesque landscape (beautifully captured in Phil Miller's widescreen lensing) while dictating his thoughts into a tape recorder. He eventually finds his brother, who's able to communicate despite seeming lifeless, and gets help from his mother who counsels him from beyond the grave.
The slow, moody proceedings are more dependent on atmosphere than plot, and the attempt to inject an emotional element via the siblings' complicated interpersonal dynamics and the recent death of their father doesn't really amount to very much. The pace drags despite the brief running time, and Trost, delivering a performance that could charitably be described as minimalist, isn't a particularly compelling screen presence.
But the film is undeniably intriguing nonetheless, and is enhanced immeasurably by the creepy ambient music score by Tori Letzler. It's even more impressive considering its reported budget of a mere $20,000. It will be interesting to see what the filmmaker achieves in the future if provided with greater financial resources.
Production: Hellmore Productions, Trost Force Productions
Cast: Jason Trost, Coy Jandreau, Kate Avery
Director/screenwriter/editor: Jason Trost
Producers: David Hellmore, Jason Trost
Executive producers: Chris Darke, Nick Frollini, Ivan Hamoo, Patrick Ingle, Fleur Kelly, Maya Ormsby, Tallay Wickham
Director of photography: Phil Miller
Production designer/costume designer: Sarah Trost
Composer: Tori Letzler
Not rated, 76 min.