HOLLYWOOD – I’m not opposed to a more feminine approach to apocalyptic survival stories. In fact, I think a deeper exploration of the emotions that play into how people react to a SHTF event is critical to a good movie or piece of survival literature.
Addressing emotions in a catastrophic event is also important for preppers to learn how to plan for and respond to such events.
And while movies such as the 2016 “Into The Forest” promise a good blend of survival combined with an emotional journey, sometimes they just miss the mark.
Based on the novel of the same name, “Into the Forest” is one of those movies. It has a lot of promise, it just doesn’t fulfill all of it.
But, that doesn’t mean this film isn’t worth seeing.
With two very recognizable actresses leading the action, the film could be a perfect piece for easing younger Millennial family members into the prepper world. It may also help convince more studios to highlight the threat of possible TEOTWAWKI events through their art.
The story follows two sisters living in their father’s cabin after a massive power outage shuts down all of North America.
While the college-age sisters Nell (Ellen Page) and Eva (Evan Rachel Wood) deal with the usual array of creepy bad guys and tense situations, the writers and directors spend most of the running time exploring how two young adults preparing for the rest of their lives in the modern world deal with a sudden life-altering event that throws them back into the dark ages.
Page (“Juno,” “X-Men: The Last Stand,” “Inception”) plays the younger Nell, an academic preparing to enter college while falling for a local boy in town. Wood (“The Wrestler,” “Westworld”) plays the older sister Eva, an artist trying to launch her dancing career even though the 20-something worries she is “too old.”
Needless to say, it’s obvious that the audience will watch these two deal with teenage drama as they learn how to survive without modern conveniences and distractions.
The movie breaks up the setting by checking in on the sisters during various time periods after the massive power outage. We see them at 10 days, two months, six months, eight months, and 15 months.
Luckily, dad was a bit of a prepper (though the film downplays this to an annoying degree) and the girls have enough provisions to live comfortably for a couple of months. And with that, the crux of the film focuses on their expectation that life will return to normal any day.
Nell is thinking about school and her boyfriend, who pays an unexpected visit. Eva continues to practice her dance routines even though she can’t play music because there isn’t enough fuel to run the generator (since no one in town has gas).
Hints that these young women start to understand that life has changed come in very small doses. Nell is afraid of getting pregnant. Eva is tired of the boyfriend eating their dwindling food supply. Unfortunately, these small revelations are tied to immature responses. “Why don’t you like him!?” Nell yells when Eva asks how long the boy plans to stick around, eating their limited food supplies.
The fact that these minor revelations happen months after the power outage is where the film will start to lose the committed prepper. Beginners or young adults not yet on board with the self-sufficient lifestyle might not notice the incongruity here.
Unfortunately, experienced preppers will continue to see the annoying missteps throughout the film.
The boyfriend wants the girls to go on an 8-month hike to Boston based on a rumor that the power is restored there. He rationalizes the risky trek by dubbing it “an adventure.” The sisters wait six months before they look for any books around the house that might help them. They blithely ignore a leaky roof. Eva never seems to tire of wearing her dance outfits, looking like she ought to be in Manhattan and not in the woods half a year after the power goes out. And on it goes.
What on earth are they doing all these months without television or the Internet to distract them? Do they stare at the walls?
Does it take that long to explore myriad of emotions? Obviously not, but again, the massive power outage is only part of the setting. If you can stomach that, you can stomach the point of the movie.
It’s not until the final act of the movie (15 months after the power outage) that the sisters start to act like they’re actually in a new, dangerous world.
When Eva experiences a short, brutal act of violence that threatens to shut her down, we see some immature, but laudable actions by the two sisters that demonstrate their resolve to adapt and survive.
They certainly get in touch with the more natural way of living. Unfortunately, while the movie spent nearly an hour and a half dealing with so many emotions leading up to this moment, it jumps to the conclusion without any exploration of the thinking that got them there. Nor does it address their final decision that is the film’s unlikely conclusion.
And there in lies the ultimate problem.
Again, for those that are easing younger, maybe female, family members into the prepping movement, this film may work. It studies the emotions people will certainly grapple with after a SHTF event while it underplays the event itself. It doesn’t bother with massive explosions or overpowering drama from the ubiquitous bad guys, though bad guys have their role.
But in the end, while the film takes on a needed study of human emotion after a national calamity, the movie’s clumsy approach to the reality of a TEOTWAWKI event keeps it from earning high marks.
On the plus side, the cinematography is terrific, and the actors are very good. The brief act of violence is not gratuitous. And religious viewers will appreciate a strong pro-life message. But there are a two short instances of female nudity, so manage viewers under 17 appropriately.
Other than using this film as a subtle tool for beginner preppers, viewers need to be cautious with their expectations. While we love the idea of big-time actors undertaking movies with realistic survival settings, there are simply too many poor decisions by the filmmakers to truly recommend the movie for pure pleasure.
With a running time of one hour and 49 minutes, “Into The Forest” is available on Netflix and Amazon.