20 Years After

Dir: Jim Torres
Star: Azura Skye, Joshua Leonard, Nathan Baesel, Shannon Eubanks

Four words will help you know what to expect from this film: "Based on a play." I don't recall this being true for other post-apocalypse movies: Mad Max was not developed from a theatrical production. Cool though that might have been, in a Starlight Express kinda way. But in this case, it means something that is more talky than action-oriented, which is something of a mixed blessing, since it has moments of some power, yet is mostly rather ponderous. Everything takes place after wars and plagues have dispersed humanity into scattered groups - and also ended the birth of new children for fifteen years until Sarah (Skye) finds herself pregnant. Forced by drought to leave her underground shelter, she meets up with Michael (Leonard), who broadcasts over the radio to anyone who might be listening, and the rest of his community, inhabiting a series of caves. That isn't the end of her journey, as the sinister Ms. Mynard (Eubanks) and her adopted son (Baesel) have designs on the unborn child.

The title was changed from the original Like Moles, Like Rats, no doubt to cash in on the success of 28 Days/Weeks Later, though this is much less concerned with the actual events, than their long-term aftermath. The 'first re-birth' thread also brings us into Children of Men territory, though that kicks this film's butt in just about every way possible. I think the main issue is the lack of a strong central character: neither Sarah nor Michael quite qualify, and there's an awkward shift in focus from one to the other in the middle that never quite works. However, it looks way more expensive than its million-dollar budget, with the cave location in which much of the movies is set, used to excellent effect. Possibly, it might all have worked better in a more enclosed, theatrical setting; instead, this is one case where the end of the world comes, not with a bang, but with a whimper.

[The film is released in the US on October 9th by MTI Home Video, and is widescreen, with special features including a commentary and behind-the-scenes footage. For more information, see the MTI website.]

[September 2008]

Future shock
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