Anyone who has read my reviews on Anythinghorror of THE OMEGA MAN and THE LAST MAN ON EARTH will know that I grew up with a post-apocalyptic longing, of wanting to be alone in a world where I could live and do and go where I want, totally free and unencumbered. Maybe I’d be totally alone, maybe there’d be zombies or vampires around, but that’s okay, I’ll find a shopping mall to hang out in.
I don’t have such fantasies anymore. The reality is that I accept that I need people around me to make my life meaningful: people to love, people to care for, people to read my reviews and tell me what a brilliant writer I am. What would be the point of being alone for the rest of your life in an empty world, unless you had some hope that you were wrong and there was someone else out there?
The Last Man scenario is a compelling one for filmmakers, however, and not just because of the dramatic potential: you don’t need a large cast or budget, just a few isolated, abandoned locations. You could probably fill a room with the DVDs of movies like this. So a filmmaker wanting to add to the collection needs to do something special to make theirs stand out.
Tom Wadlow’s WASTELAND, filmed in Derby, England, made a good attempt at standing out, by focusing on the emotional impact of a survivor of an apocalypse. Scott Miller (Shameer Seepersand) hides out in a crappy shack in the remote countryside, sneaking out to neighbouring areas to scavenge and avoid the odd zombie by day, and his nights playing solitaire and talking on his CB radio talking to George (Gavin Harrison), the only other survivor he knows about.
Scott Miller is no hero, as he himself will tell you in his talks with George and his own monologues. In pre-apocalyptic flashbacks we see him with Beth (Jessica Messenger), complete with the obligatory dinner and engagement ring scene (to be fair, the scenes between the two feel genuine and realistic), as we see through them the growing epidemic and collapse of civilisation, eventually escaping the big cities to hide out in the shack.
But Beth eventually leaves to return to London to find her family, and Scott stays behind, but guilt ensures he stays there, on the flimsy hope that she might return.
The bulk of the film focuses on Scott’s character, to its credit; like Will Smith’s Robert Neville in I AM LEGEND (whose poster design is aped by WASTELAND’s own), the day to day activities and how the main character deals with them, are the strength of the story (like his having to wait until it rains to wash himself and collect water in pans, the little garden he sets up outside the shack, the fact that after months wearing the same things his clothes will be in tatters). Of course, it’s not addressed where he gets the endless supply of candles, batteries for his radio and bullets for his gun, but let’s skip over that, shall we?
There are a few scenes of zombie attacks (or rather, Scott fleeing from them; like he said, he’s no hero) with quick scenes of blood and guts, but then the story is more about his emotional ordeal (fortunately, Seepersand carries it well).
But then, like in I AM LEGEND, it all goes downhill in the last twenty minutes, as we’re introduced to two new characters, one of them being the trope “immune survivor who’s the last, best hope for humanity”. You know, the one who’ll make the guy who’s said he was no hero become a hero after all. Writer Tommy Draper tries to flesh out these characters, but lengthy exposition doesn’t cut it, nor does inconsistent behaviour (at various points in their dealing with Scott, they’re enemies then friends then I’m not sure what).
And then coupled with this, an action scene with a bit of green scene that almost totally spoils both the feel and tone of the movie, and you have yet another example of a movie that should have ended ten to twenty minutes before (although the final act did up the overall quota of zombie scenes).
But I hate to sound like I’m crapping on the movie, because I’m not. I thought it was well-shot, well-acted, with some impressive locations and beautiful music (not just the usual jarring heavy metal elevator music we hear in movies like this). More a character piece than an all-out action fest, WASTELAND for me will remain memorable.
The movie is available from various outlets, and the trailer is below.
Director: Tom Wadlow
Plot: 3 out of 5 stars
Gore: 4 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 3 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Deggsy. The 4,567,212th Last Man on Earth