|It ain't easy surviving the apocalypse.|
Dir. Andrew Robertson
Starring: Carter Roy, Amy Rutberg, Eva Grace Kellner, Sebastian Beacon, Chris Kies, Travis Grant, Mark Ashworth
Review By Greg Klymkiw
There's a whole lot of been-there-done-that-been-done-lots-bigger-and-better comprising the experience that is Refuge (earlier entitled The Mansion) which makes my heart go out to the filmmakers even more than those who would merely attempt a low-budget, slapdash rehash of movies like John Hillcoat's fine adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's The Road. That said, this post-apocalyptic science fiction chamber drama with thriller elements is not without fine performances, intelligent writing (via helmer Andrew Robertson and co-scribe Lilli Kanso), superb use of remote, evocative locations and first-rate production design and art direction.
Our familiarity with this world on film is simply one of the biggest problems facing Refuge. The accent on character and family is admirable and its handling of both suspense and violence is not without merit, but given its modest budget, one might have hoped its makers would have attempted to push the envelope further in order to deliver something that felt more original.
They don't, though, and we're left with a film with considerable merit, but few surprises that provide the kind of frissons which would otherwise allow us to forgive a few of the picture's lapses in logic which seem due to a clumsy flashback structure which might have been a problem inherent in the screenplay or the result of exigencies in production and post-production.
Focusing on a couple and their young daughter (Carter Roy, Amy Rutberg, Eva Grace Kellner), a next door neighbour (Chris Kies) and a wounded outsider (Sebastian Beacon) who brings a backstory of violence and being on the run with him.
The latter is what sets off a chain of unpleasantness when a gang of nasty psychopaths follows his trail to the backwoods mansion and our protagonists are forced to leave their refuge behind, now all on the run from the marauders. Things settle into a backwoods cat and mouse until the predictably inevitable grand showdown.
There's nothing especially wrong with the film, but its familiar tropes are enough to make the experience quite underwhelming in spite of its quality.
THE FILM CORNER RATING: **½ Two-and-a-half Stars
Refuge has its Canadian premiere during the 2014 Toronto After Dark Film Festival.