It's one of the ironies of filmmaking that as the budgets of SF films get higher and higher, the number of interesting ideas and thoughts, the hallmark of great science fiction, gets smaller and smaller. For thought provoking and unique SF one has to turn to smaller independent movies, such as the 2001 feature Ever Since the World Ended. Made by first time feature filmmakers Calum Grant and Joshua Atesh Litle, this movie proves that large piles of cash aren't needed to make a solid film. An examination of what the world would be like if just about everyone died, the topic has been covered before (Jeremiah, Survivors, and On the Beach to name just a few). This film does manage to take a fresh look at the subject and paints an interesting picture of a post apocalyptic world.
Twelve years ago, a new disease appeared that was resistant to all the drugs that were used against it. Two years later, nearly the entire human race was dead. Now, ten years after the end of civilization as we know it, two amateur filmmakers set out to chronicle what life is like in this new world by interviewing some of the 196 people who live in San Francisco.
This pseudo-documentary is an interesting film. It raises some questions that have no easy answers. One of the subplots involves a man who was kicked out of the community years ago after burning down a warehouse. He was beaten, taken to the edge of town and told never to come back. Now he's back again and the other inhabitants of SF aren't sure what they should do. At a town meeting some people suggest just killing him, since he might start fires again. Others bring up the point that you can't execute someone for a crime that they might commit, but there is no jail or any way to ensure that he won't hurt the community.
One of the nice things about this film is that way people organize themselves seems plausible and reasonable. Many people have grouped together in large houses and buildings, forming clans for support and to share the work. Adam Savage (Mythbusters) has a small role as the only electrician/engineer. He makes batteries out of lead and acid and keeps the lights running in the community house where he lives. He's also the only one who seems to realize that eventually they will all have to leave the urban setting for the country where they can grow crops.
Reminiscent of the Blair Witch Project, the hand held camera work and sometime less than optimal lighting works well to give this movie a realistic feel. While sometimes it is overdone, surely they would have been able to make or find a tripod for the interviews, it never gets distracting like some cinema vérité style films do. The filmmakers do have a good eye however, and some of the images are quite poetic. The scenes of totally empty downtown streets devoid of cars, people, and signs of life not only help set the tone of the film but are also beautiful in their own right. The shot of a rusting battleship anchored at a dock, waves lapping its hull but no one in sight, was also very thought provoking.
This film does make you consider not only what you would do if everyone around you died, but also what modern conveniences do we really need. Sure the Internet and videogames are fun, but would we miss them as a society if they were to disappear? The young teens in the movie, born before the plague but too young to remember what life was like back then can't conceive why the adults miss their old way of life. To them it sounds horrible; getting rid of the rat race, pollution, war, global warming, and political corruption is worth living a more simple life.
This trait of being able to make the audience think about the character's situation is one of the film's greatest attributes, but it's also its greatest weakness. The co-directors did a good job of creating this new world, but there were some things that are missing. One would think that the rats and disease would be overwhelming in a city where most of the citizens are dead and unburied. People didn't worry about food nearly as much as I thought they would. Even with all of the canned food that was in the area surely after 10 years it would start to run out, not to mention the fresh fruits and vegetables that didn't seem to be lacking. Cigarettes were still around, but I'd think that the tobacco wouldn't last 10 years even wrapped in plastic. Where do all their clothes come from too, no one was dressed in rags at all? The other thing that really had me wondering was why no one had tried to take control. Would an anarchist system really be able to survive for 10 years?
This film comes with a stereo soundtrack that suits the subject matter well. There are some slight imperfections, a bit of distortion in a couple of places, but nothing that takes away from the enjoyment of the movie.
The 2.35:1 image looked pretty good, especially for being shot on digital video tape, but it was not anamorphically enhanced, which is a shame. (I did receive a screener disc without a case, but since it did have menus and extras, I assume that it is the same as the retail version.) There were a few digital defects, a bit of aliasing in the background and some slight mosquito noise in some parts, but the disc looked good. The image was just a bit on the soft side but the level of detail was fine and the colors were solid.
This disc also includes a reel of deleted scenes that lasts about 14 minutes. Some of these were interesting and it was nice that they included them. There is also a trailer for the film.
There have been several other projects that looked at life in a post
apocalyptic world, and Ever Since the World Ended doesn't feel like
a retread of an old idea. The filmmakers create a scenario that was
both interesting and thought provoking. While there are a couple
of parts that could be debated, the film painted a fairly plausible look
at life without people. A film that is definitely worth checking
out, this gets a strong recommendation.