Review: These Final Hours
The world is set to end after a meteor hit the North Atlantic, but this film focusses solely on Western Australia. We follow James (Nathan Phillips), whose current bed-mate (Jessica De Gouw) is pregnant with a child that will never be brought to term (‘coz, y’know…it’s the End of Days). With 12 hours to go James, being a bit of a dick decides to head off to a rave party to see his girlfriend (Kathryn Beck) and her brother (Daniel Henshall, from “Snowtown”). Basically, he just wants to spend his final hours getting fucked up like a bogan and forget that any of this is going to go down. Along the way, though, he comes across a young girl (Angourie Rice) seemingly being abducted. He rescues the girl, who wants James to reunite her with her father, saying that if they were to ever be separated she was to head for her Aunt’s place. It’s a reasonably long trip, but he decides to oblige, thinking they’ll come across someone else he can hand her off to. Along the way, though, a bond forms. Lynette Curran plays James’ estranged mother, whilst Sarah Snook plays a disturbing young woman apparently looking for her missing daughter.
I think the end of the world subgenre of films reached its peak with the highly underrated and moving “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World”, but this 2014 Aussie effort from writer-director Zak Hildritch (his debut feature film, I believe) is a surprisingly good effort. It’s not as moving as “Seeking a Friend” nor is it the great film set to revitalise the Aussie film industry, but it’s a good film that might make you feel something and start you thinking about your own life. I was expecting something much cheesier, to be honest, so it was a pleasant surprise.
It immediately offers up an impressive, chaotic view of Western Australia dawning on the apocalypse. It feels pretty real, actually. Like “Seeking a Friend”, this film gets it. In this kind of scenario there would be chaos, depression, suicide, selfishness, etc. On that last point, one wonders if people really would go out of their way to help a little girl in this dire situation for everyone, and the film does indeed show off a lot of self-preservation. However, I do believe such selflessness would also exist. The kid is all alone, you can’t just leave her there to fend for herself. Whether the specific character played by Nathan Phillips would do such a thing, I’m not quite as sure. I mean, it’s all well and good to be nice to people, but if the world is ending, surely you have your own peace to make. However, it’s plausible enough that you don’t spend much time questioning it. Maybe helping the little girl is what Phillips needs to make peace before he dies, who knows. I’m not a Nathan Phillips fan (He was an hilarious douchebag in the underrated horror flick “Dying Breed”, though), but he has a kind of bogan boofhead vibe that, although not exactly the kind of guy I’d hang around, provides a welcome break from the usual kind of protagonist you’d find in this sort of thing. Also on point is veteran actress Lynette Curran in a cameo role as Phillips’ bitter and estranged mother. Hers is by far the best performance in the whole film, actually.
Unfortunately, the other performances aren’t as impressive, especially the unholy trinity of TV actress Kathryn Beck, Sarah Snook, and a surprisingly awful Daniel Henshall. Beck is a one-note performer who either seems to play bug-eyed, girly-voiced bunny-boilers (a brief stint on “Neighbours”), or bug-eyed, girly-voiced drug addict prisoners (on “Wentworth”). Here she plays Phillips’ bug-eyed, girly-voiced skank girlfriend, and is typically awful. Snook seems to be a bit of a critic’s darling, but here I must say she’s almost as bad as Beck. I know the worldview here is chaotic and maddening, but Snook offers up no subtlety whatsoever. That’s tenfold for Henshall, who was truly frightening as a killer in the disturbing “Snowtown”. Here he has been given free rein to act insanely stupid to the detriment of an otherwise pretty gritty, realistic and powerful film. The rave party is the exact opposite of how I’d spend my final hours, but despite raves being like 15 years out of date in 2014, the film does present an interestingly nuts worldview. These freaks are playing Russian roulette for cryin’ out loud! It’s also a film that offers up the question of what one would do if they fell pregnant just before finding out that the world is going to end before that baby comes to term. Yikes, that’s heavy stuff to ponder.
It’s not an easy watch, this one, but that’s not a flaw, it’s really interesting and worthy stuff. One definite flaw with the film is the thing everyone else seems to be praising, the look of it. The cinematography by Bonnie Elliott is ugly. Employing a very artificially brown hue, the film looks positively shit-stained and monochromatic. What a shame, the film deserves a much better visage than what looks like Ms. Elliott has taken a dump and smeared the faecal matter across the camera lens. Yuck.
Give this one a go if you’ve been avoiding it. It isn’t brilliant and it looks horrible, but it’s a pretty realistic look at what the End of Days might look like here in Australia. Yes, Americans probably do this sort of thing with a bit more polish, but it gets a lot of things right for what I personally think would happen when Armageddon comes. Shame about some of those performances, because the material is quite potent. Guys, I know we like to rag on our local product, but believe me…this is one of the good ones. Seek it out.