Studio: Gravitas Ventures
Director: Andrew Hyatt
Writer: Andrew Hyatt
Producer: Samantha Lusk, Seth David Mitchell
Stars: Ed Quinn, Edward Furlong, Yvonne Zima, Tahyna Tozzi, Molly Hagan, Seth David Mitchell, Jeff Fahey
Hunted by strange creatures, seven survivors take refuge in an abandoned hospital after a mysterious event covers the world in bright light.
The survivors’ memories are somewhat hazy on exactly what happened, but it has been an unspecified amount of time since an unspecified event bathed the world in a perpetual bright light. That light brought an unseen threat in the form of ravenous creatures that overran the surface world. Seven survivors have since taken refuge in an abandoned hospital where they occupy their days by failing to stave off cabin fever while hope of eventual rescue rapidly diminishes.
Anyone lured by the premise alone need be aware of exactly what type of movie s/he is actually signing on for. The doomsday scenario is only a diving board. “The Last Light” is not a zombie outbreak action epic or even a monster movie at all. In fact, the creatures lurking beyond the walls are never revealed. “The Last Light” is an introspective character portrait about sanity struggles in the face of oppressive hopelessness and haunted memories.
Anyone still onboard with a quiet character piece instead of a traditionally paced horror thriller should also be aware that “The Last Light” moves very, very slowly. A countdown starts at “89 days” when the movie opens and by the time it reaches zero, a sense of relief accompanies the realization that the film is almost at its end. Not because “The Last Light” is bad, but because something of presumed significance may finally shake the movie from its doldrums.
“The Last Light” devotes a great deal of screentime to excessive shots of lead actor Ed Quinn wandering dimly lit corridors in silhouette with a pointed shotgun. Director of photography Filip Vandewal excels at establishing a dark atmosphere through the camera, but director Andrew Hyatt keeps the audience there too long. Eventually, the uneventful dreariness overtaxes any willingness to spectate in that environment for a full 90 minutes of food foraging, petty squabbling, and calm conversations. The plot is missing interesting beats to break up its monotone mood.
“The Last Light” maintains moderate intrigue thanks to quality performances from a cast making the film better than the script would otherwise allow it to be. Watching someone like Jeff Fahey add nuance through nearly imperceptible head nods makes one appreciate what a skilled veteran can do with a role beyond simply reciting words off a page. Even with far fewer minutes than star Ed Quinn, everyone from Molly Hagan to Tahyna Tozzi exhibits sincerity that makes short moments engaging regardless of the hushed tone. An inexperienced cast using the same material would have made “The Last Light” a complete dud.
But the talent on display also raises the question of how much better “The Last Light” could have been with a more inventive storyline and less derivative characters. Fictional film apocalypses have a weird way of uniting disparate persons and this one is no different. Bands of survivors never seem to attract multiples of any singular personality type, yet nearly always include some variation of blowhard, burnout, bitch, beefy alpha male, etc. Writer/director Hyatt tries being subtle about it both in his script and in his staging, but the characterizations in “The Last Light” are still cut from those same stereotypes.
Survivor Jack is brawny, yet handsomely nonthreatening enough to be the group’s somewhat reluctant yet fair leader. Jeffrey is the dissenting loudmouth who thinks he can lead the group better, and undermines Jack at every opportunity. Noah is the leather-jacketed loner whose casually dismissive attitude has him segregated by choice in the basement. From seductive sexpot to struggling matronly type, the audience has spent time with all of these people before, albeit in other movies.
Exceptional acting keeps “The Last Light” from sinking in quicksand even with a story that has only middling appeal. Then a deeply unsatisfying twist at the end pushes the film’s head underwater with a reminder that there isn’t enough of note going on to make the movie really pop. “The Last Light” starts with a promise that something compelling is in store, but the content is missing the depth required to follow through.
Review Score: 55