Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Quiet Earth Is Uneven, Ends Fascinatingly

As middle age approaches, I've found myself battling an intractable foe -- the ever-expanding belly. For some reason, I can't seem to shrug off the calories like I used to, so mornings find me sweating away the calories. I've taken to sussing out odd or obscure movies to watch while I workout, anything to keep exercise from getting boring. And while trolling top-ten lists for viewing ideas, I stumbled across The Quiet Earth, a 1985 post-apocalyptic SF film shot entirely in New Zealand.

On July 5th at 6:12 a.m., the world ended. Researcher Zac Hobson woke mere moments later. Upon leaving his room, he finds no armed uprisings or nuclear fallout, no devastating plague or marauding mutants, only a city empty of all people and utterly silent. A search throughout the deserted metropolis turns up only a single clue at the scientific center where Hobson once worked, a blinking prompt on a screen that read, "Project Flashlight complete." Seems the global power grid he and his colleagues had worked on wasn't as harmless as they initially thought. Hobson begins taking steps to contact any survivors of what he calls The Event, broadcasting a looped message from a radio station and painting billboards with his contact information. But as the days stretch on, he begins to wonder: Could he be the last man alive?

Alas, anyone who picks up a DVD of The Quiet Earth will have that question quickly answered. Perhaps this is one production where the actors and actresses' names -- note the plural -- shouldn't be printed in plain sight. But some surprises still lay in store. The film revels in unexpected developments, some stunning, others bewildering. The initial scenes of Hobson wandering around abandoned shopping malls and highways strewn with empty cars possess an eerie beauty. But whenever director Geoff Murphy tries to amp up the intensity, the proceedings turn absurd. One would expect a man in Hobson's situation to undergo some mental strain. But to don women's lingerine, bust into a Catholic church with a shotgun, scream, "If you don't come out I'll shoot the kid!" and blast the crucified Christ above the altar? Yeah, not so much. Most pundits also dislike the ending, which is so unexpected it seems at first like the dictionary definition of a non sequitor. However, careful viewers may take note of the subtle clues that Murphy sprinkled throughout the narrative, clues that make the conclusion feel more appropos, and that may be worth the price of admission.

(Picture: CC 2009 by Marshall Astor - Food Fetishist)


dolorah said...

Sounds like a movie I'd hang out on my eliptical with :) I'm weird, but sometimes I like cheesy B movies.


Jim Murdoch said...

I watched the trailer but for the life of me I can't remember seeing this one and it's not like me to miss a good (or even a bad) end of the world film. I will definitely be checking this one out.

Loren Eaton said...


It definitely has its cheesy moments, but I found parts of it really quite fascinating.

Loren Eaton said...


Let me know what you think of it. Internet opinion is definitely divided.

Jackie Jordan said...

The trailer was interesting, yet the movie wouldn't be on my Top Ten list. However, I would like to see a post-apocalyptic movie based on biblical mythology. Most of the End-of-Days films leave me feeling forlorn and destitute.

Loren Eaton said...

However, I would like to see a post-apocalyptic movie based on biblical mythology.

I know of virtually no movies like this that are any good. I mean, there's the whole Left Behind series, but I think they're best (forgive me for this) left behind themselves.

Jackie Jordan said...

Ha! Your opinion is well-received. I'll have to, finally, see that series in the near future. Truth be told, I'm simply partial to something that I wrote in the early '80s, mainly sci-fi with a religious twist. "Better left behind" – I love that!

Loren Eaton said...

Jackie, you may enjoy The Passage. True, it's a book, but the author uses the story of Noah as a bracketing device. Great book.