Saturday, August 03, 2019

Survival Box is Best Left Six Feet Underground: A Film Review

*full disclosure: an online screener of this film was provided by levelFilm.

Director: William Scoular.

Writer: Ashlin Halfnight.

Cast: Michala Brasseur, Adam Moryto, Jessica Cummings, Paul Syrstad and Boris Bilic.

Survival Box is an indie thriller? from first time director William Scoular and screenwriter Ashlin Halfnight ("Bloodline"). To be released later this year, this sci-fi yarn/yawn takes place in an underground bunker, for most of the film's runtime. A nuclear event has taken place above, trapping seven characters below. There have been a few films of this style, from Matt and Ross Duffer's compelling title Hidden (2015) to the fairly sterile 400 Days (2015). However, neither of these films were as unbelievable as the one reviewed here. Characters act strangely within the Survival Box, while immune to cabin fever. The only film element worse than the films lack of realistic character actions is the film's tedious plot development. Story elements just plod along for the next eighty minutes, creating monotony. Survival Box is not really recommended even for the most patient film goers.

The story has really already been summed up above. To elaborate, seven young adults party into the early hours of the morning. Deep underground, they have a good time, until the bunker doors close. A nuclear event has taken place above, possibly between North Korea and the United States. If that scenario does not seem far-fetched, the characters now spend the next two hundred and fifty days in the bunker. Even though most radiation has subsided by Day 7, the characters are still bickering hundreds of days later. Even a radio signal, announcing a safe zone, is not enough to get these characters topside. Though, one anxious character does test out the environment, early in the movie. The end result is a very tiresome film watching experience.

The lack of believability is another problem. These characters do not look like they have spent dozens of weeks in a concrete prison. None of the male characters have beards. The womens' hair is all the same length from Day 1. Meanwhile, all of the characters - save one - act strangely normal after so much confinement. This reviewer would be losing his mind after one day. But, these characters seem unusually put together for such a long time in relative darkness. In Act III, a radio signal is broadcast. It mentions a safe zone and supplies. But, none of the characters head for the door? Two hundred days have passed and no one is even slightly interested in finding other survivors. Meanwhile, an asthmatic character has no more puffs within his inhaler. Instead of venturing outside in search of another, he chooses to die inside the bunker; these are not believable character actions. If that was not enough, there is a newborn baby who does not require formula. This story is just not believable on a number of levels.

Still, the monotony plays on with almost no story developments for the next sixty minutes; there is little entertainment here. The characters are significantly developed during the film. But, the plot remains trapped underground. For all of Acts II and III, the camera stays within the bunker, only venturing outside for a few quick shots. A child is birthed and nothing else really happens. It is almost like scriptwriter Halfnight forgot about conflict, action and moving the story along. The interactions between characters are fine. But, dialogue and facial expressions can only do so much to create an exciting film experience. As it is, Survival Box is an exercise in tedium.

Survival Box will show in a few theatres this August, via levelFilm and on Digital platforms this September 3rd. This title should not really be on the top of anyone's must-see list, unless you are a die-hard post-apocalyptic drama film fanatic. The characters, within Survival Box, act strangely - with hardly anyone willing to go outside. Story elements develop painfully slow, with the film showing almost no sense of pacing. Meanwhile, the characters bickering amongst themselves grows tiresome over time. And, almost nothing within the Survival Box's film reality is believable. In the end, Survival Box will test your ability to endure psychological pain and little more.

Overall: 5.75 out of 10.

*film details are not available at the levelFilm website as of yet.

Hidden (2015) is a much better film, set in similar circumstances:

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