DVD REVIEW: SURVIVOR / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: JOHN LYDE / SCREENPLAY: JOHN LYDE / STARRING: DANIELLE CHUCHRAN, KEVIN SORBO, ROCKY MYERS / RELEASE DATE: SEPTEMBER 8TH
Churning out a reasonably competent horror film on a tiny budget is relatively easy: turn out the lights, go down the ‘found footage’ route, knock up a claw or a drooling mouth for the long shots and you’re away. Low-budget science fiction, however, is a different proposition. Futuristic fantasy demands decent special effects and competent production design if it’s to stand a chance of interesting a blockbuster-savvy audience used to high-end CGI and casts of thousands. Survivor, entirely Kickstarter-funded, hasn’t got an original idea in its eighty-odd minute head and yet, through a combination of determination and enthusiasm, it’s a damned sight better and more unashamedly entertaining B-Movie than many bigger-budgeted efforts which take up multiplex residence every summer. You know what we mean, Mr Bay…
Much of the fun in Survivor is derived from spotting which classic sci-fi movie it’s ripping off next. Your favourite will almost certainly be here, from Planet of the Apes via The Time Machine and with a touch of last year’s Will Smith howler After Earth thrown in for good measure. The last survivors (hence the title) of the human race are holed up in a giant spacecraft, and an investigation team sent to explore a nearby potentially habitable world are brought down by a meteorite storm. Most of the cast… sorry,crew… are killed in the crash but feisty kickass Kate (Chuchran) must navigate traitorous, unfamiliar terrain, hordes of savage underground-dwelling creatures and various other mutations and beasts which roam the planet’s surface. And a horse. Meanwhile, the ship’s Commander, Captain Hunter (grizzled ex-TV Hercules Sorbo) is lying injured in a cave Will Smith style.
Survivor gets a STARBURST pass just for being so full of itself. It’s clearly been made with such passion and gusto it’s easy to overlook the unadulterated derivativeness of the script and plot and to just enjoy the surprisingly good photography (the planetscape locations are stunning and gorgeously colourful), the breezy, occasionally slo-mo action sequences and the halfway decent special effects and prosthetics. There’s even a convincing CGI monster for Kate to tussle with at one point. The revelation of the true nature of the alien planet won’t surprise anyone (go on, have a guess) but the whole film’s too good-natured and clearly such a labour of love for its director/writer and his team that, just this once, we’ll overlook the fact that we’ve seen all this before in dozens of films with bigger budgets and better effects.