I was looking forward to this Friday. I was going to see Country Strong, and I was going to like it. And then I was going to write a review of how I liked it. Friday came, and I went online to buy my ticket. AND IT WASN’T PLAYING! What gives!? It’s a big movie. It’s been advertised everywhere. It has big names in it. Apparently the bastards-that-be at Empire Theatres just decided that I don’t get to see it. Instead, I had the choice of Season of the Witch or nothing. I chose nothing, because the last thing I want to do is reward those stupid theater people for screwing me over. So Empire Theatres’ loss was Blockbuster’s gain. The movie I’m reviewing for you this week is The Quiet Earth. Here’s a run down on what it’s about:
A scientist working at an astronomical observatory in New Zealand wakes up to find that he seems to be the only person left on Earth.
What a killer idea for a movie, eh? Are you surprised you’ve never heard of it? Well, that’s because it’s a sci-fi movie from New Zealand made in the 1980s, so that’s three strikes against popular dissemination. I had originally intended to review Flipped, which is what I rented from Blockbuster, but although it was cute, plenty of reviewers have called your attention to it already, and I have way more to say about The Quiet Earth.
Now, before we get started, I would just like to mention that The Quiet Earth was produced by a company called Pillsbury Pictures. With the clout of so many frozen pies shells and ready-to-bake cookie mixes behind it, I wondered how this film could have remained unnoticed and unpromoted for so long.
I am, of course, kidding. It is not the same Pillsbury. Did I have you going?
Anyway The Quiet Earth begins, appropriately enough, quietly. The sun is rising. The credits are rolling. The sun is still rising. Still rising. Still rising, until: BAM! PENIS!
I felt like I should have been given some sort of a warning. Like a little sticker on the box that says: “Caution! Penis!” or a slow pan-down that could have made it obvious they weren’t going to stop at the waist or something. I can see parents putting this movie for a sci-fi loving kid because there’s hardly any violence in it and then squeaking and covering the kid’s eyes like 2 minutes into the film. So I’m giving you the warning I didn’t get.
So the penis is attached to a guy named Zac Hobson (Bruno Lawrence). He gets up, rips off his pass to his secret laboratory so you know he’s a scientist who has super strength in his arms and neck. Seriously, though, who can rip dog-tag chain just by yanking on it? Just once I want to see a movie where someone tries to take off a chain or necklace like that and ends up hurting themselves.
“Here, take this, my grandmother gave it to me.” *yank* “Ow! Jesus!”
Super muscle penis Zac is a scientist at a secret facility (a fact his pass card should have tipped you off to). Being a scientist at a secret facility has obviously protected him from whatever calamity has befallen the Earth, because he seems to be the only person left on the planet. All the things are still there, but all the people and animals have vanished. Sort of like that History Channel show Life After People, but without the sinister intent on the part of the plants.
Bwa ha ha, we evil shrubs have eaten your highway line-painter. Your move, feeble human.
“Something must have happened here!”
Zac goes down to his secret lab in the secret facility and checks out his top secret computers and finds out that everywhere else in the world is empty too because they won’t respond to whatever the 1985 version of email is. I think it was called the telephone. In a twist that surprises no one, least of all Zac, the secret experiments at his secret facility are responsible for wiping all life (except for plants) off the face of the Earth.
I didn’t realize my old Commodore 64 had such powers.
Zac is understandably upset about this. He frantically punches some computer keys but whatever the 1985 version of Ctrl + Z was doesn’t work and he’s still stuck there alone. Since there’s no one else’s shoulder around to cry on, he decides that the best way to cope would be to hide under his desk and talk to his tape recorder.
Captain’s Log, Stardate 1985. I want my mommy.
He does the tape recorder thing a lot, on account of there’s no one else to talk to and he would have no dialogue otherwise. Then comes a very “7 Stages of Being Alone for a Really Long Time” sequence of events. Zac starts off doing what anyone else would do if they suddenly found themselves utterly without supervision in a world filled with toys:
i.e. dicking around
Until eventually that gets boring and he starts missing people. He puts out signs and radio messages and everything everywhere but no one ever responds to them, so he eventually goes batty and starts making his own cardboard cutout people to hang out with.
You may remember this coping tactic from Home Alone
All very normal responses to stress if you were raised on Call of Duty and Psycho
But of course he’s not really alone, because then there would be no pattern to follow that would lead him to guess why he’s still around and no one else is. So he does eventually find some other people to be crazy with. I won’t tell you where they came from because that would ruin it, but suffice it to say they’re not people I would want to hang around with even if they were the last people remaining on Earth. They are an extremely creepy lady (Alison Routledge) and a Maori who likes to go running in leather pants (Pete Smith).
I can only hope that the leather pants are his version of ladies undergarments,
because that is seriously uncomfortable.
As if being trapped on Earth alone wasn’t bad enough, things actually start to get worse in a very rolling-car-in-Inception sort of way, so they have to stop being crazy and actually devote some attention to fixing the Earth.
Oh dear – wake me up! Wake me up!
This is a small budget film from New Zealand in 1985, so don’t expect a lot from the special effects. They manage to do debris and explosions rather well using actual debris and explosions but when we get into the Earth-bending effects they’ve got a hilarious kind of digital kaleidoscope thing going on. Luckily they don’t use them so much that it becomes really distracting. For the most part, it’s pretty cool looking.
Isn’t this pretty cool looking? Especially for 1985?
The point of the film isn’t the effects, or even really the science. Zac does talk a bit about what they were working on and what he thinks happened, but the point of the film is what happens to people when they find themselves suddenly alone. At first you think it’s awesome and you run around doing all the things you always wanted to do but couldn’t because people would get their panties in a twist about it.
Drinking raw egg and champagne wouldn’t be high on my list.
But eventually you realize it is not awesome, because human beings are social animals and without anyone to be social with we start to lose it and end up making friends with bloody volleyballs or cardboard cutouts of Josef Stalin.
As Zac says at one point: “I’m condemned to live.”
It doesn’t have a lot of action or a lot of flashy gimmicks, it’s a fascinating look at humanity. It’s also got some pretty interesting science in it and the ending is either horrifying or awesome depending on your point of view. I encourage you to see it and decide for yourself. You can rent it from a lot of places or you can buy a copy on DVD for like ten bucks.