Scorched Earth (2023)

Rating: C-

Dir: Joshua Morrison, Jethro Randell
Star: Charlotte Elizzabeth Langley, Lee Westwick, Neil Sandland, Robin Kirwan

It’s important to realize that this is a micro-budget movie, and the post-apocalyptic scenario it depicts, unfolds on a very small scale as a result. The above grade takes this into account, and reflects that there’s still some obvious flaws, even when you allow for the limited resources to hand. In this world, almost all water has become toxic, putting those who drink or even touch it, potentially in lethal peril. Wandering through it are Gylian (Langley) and her daughter. After the latter falls ill, Gylian eventually finds shelter in a refuge run by Claire and Kairo (Westwick), getting the necessary medicine. However, when Gylian is out foraging, the refuge is robbed at gunpoint, forcing her and Kairo to go in search of the man who now has her daughter’s meds.

Again, I really need to stress: low, low-budget. When you’re portraying a world where 99% of the population has presumably been wiped out, you don’t need a big cast. It has to be said, the apocalypse here seems to have had no actual effect at all. The world depicted here is more or less just a Sunday morning version of our one: there’s not many people about. At least give me a few corpses, burned-out cars or even a broken window or two. This comes particularly to the fore when Gylian is captured and made to take part in a “fight club”, which basically takes place in someone’s living-room. I mean, the makers couldn’t find an abandoned shed?

The old bugbear of inconsistent audio also raises its head, most obviously in a scene where three characters are walking along a road. Two of them sound fine; the third appears to have a blanket stuffed into her mouth. However, most of the technical elements are okay, at least to the level where they don’t distract from the story being told. Speaking of which, this might be the weakest link. The credits run after a positively terse 56 minutes, with scant resolution: a car-door closes and that’s it. The apparently unfinished nature of the script can’t be excused by a low budget. Indeed, that’s an area where there’s a level playing-field, regardless of resources.

I did like the arc of Gylian. At the beginning, it’s clear she’s willing to do anything for her daughter. By the end though, it’s just as apparent this has brought her into a very dark place (even if the scene where it is most apparent was ripped off from The Walking Dead – s10e14, to be precise – albeit with about 1% of the emotional punch). Another twenty minutes on the end, developing the angle further, would have been welcome. Langley’s performance is fine, and most of the rest serve their function, though I would have appreciated a better antagonist against whom Gylian could have been pitted. But it needs a little less wandering the rural landscape, and more direction and escalation towards its goal.