Saturday, September 24, 2011


"Most liberals will hate this movie for it surely tells it like it is... if you are a fan of big government or dislike survivalists stay away from this one" - IMDb user, Nolan Price of Shawnee, OK.

If I am ever diagnosed with a terminal illness I’m going to put this movie on, because every moment of it feels like a fucking eternity. I’m not exactly sure what happened here. This thing has so many great things going for it. You have Steve Railsback as Jack Tillman, the survivalist of which the title speaks. You have Marjoe Gortner as Lt. Youngman, a bat shit leader of the National Guard who squanders his resources during a crisis to snuff out Tillman for making him look stupid in front of some Oakies. The bare bones are promising: Tillman, a man who’s been preparing for the breakdown of law and order in the face of imminent world war, braves riots and upstart warlords to find his son. All these elements sewn together should make for a very entertaining movie. Unfortunately, there is one killer ingredient in the bowl that turns this thing into molasses: padding. Virtually every establishing shot is BLED TO DEATH for the purpose of extending the running time of a film that should have only been (and probably was) about 70 minutes long. There's driving. Lots of driving. Lots of shots of cars driving down winding roads. And then there's running. My god, it feels like people are running through brush on a loop. Night time establishing shots of the moon that go on for fucking eons. I won't even get into the marathon shots of Gortner's helicopter continually landing and lifting off, or the battery of pointless aerial shots they sandwich in between them. While this film is not without basic story telling problems, it is this minutia of excessively dull bullshit that drowns the pacing and brings on the yawn.

The story itself is sort of like a Tea Partier’s wet dream. In some remote and unpopulated area of Russia, a nuclear war head is detonated. Naturally, the US gets blamed for this, and Ruskies are burning for blood. Media attention sparks the decline of American civilization, and people almost immediately start rioting. Our hero Tillman gets the news while he’s grilling, and immediately decides to ride a tractor into town to get his strong box from the local bank. Lt. Youngman, played by Gortner, plays a self-important motorcycle riding hoodlum who also happens to be a higher up in the National Guard. Now, hilariously, all the cops and the troops in this movie are played by creepy long hairs, hippies, and bikers, all of whom take advantage of the situation. These counter culture scum have infiltrated every facet of local government and have been waiting for just such an opportunity to pounce. THIS COULD ALL HAPPEN, MAN! BEWARE!

When Youngman tries to stop Tillman from getting his gold out of the bank, Tillman pretty much makes him look like a total boob by running over his motorcycle with his tractor. While they continually allude to the fact that these two characters have some sort of sordid history, Tillman’s ultimate disrespect toward Youngman spawns a die-hard vendetta.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch (literally), Tillman’s wife and daughter are sexually assaulted and shot to death by trio of senselessly marauding rotten-toothed hippies. The best part is that they don’t even break in. Instead, they pretty much just strut in because the survivalist’s wife forgot to lock the goddamn door. This was just one of many inane details that bothered me about this movie. Anyway, Tillman gets back to find his family butchered. His daughter’s hanging on by a thread, so he rushes her to a hospital. There, he meets up with family friends The Ryans, a husband and wife doctor/nurse team played by consummate weasel Cliff De Young and the aging Susan Blakely. Unfortunately, Tillman’s daughter is DOA, and the rioters outside have resorted to using TNT to get into the waiting room.

With the situation rapidly deteriorating, Tillman realizes he’s got to go find his son, who’s been sent away to sleep-away camp for the summer. It’s only a matter of time before things go sour for the Ryans, but De Young’s character is adamant that he obey his oath and stay to help the blood crazed denizens outside. Tillman says “fuck that” and knocks his pussy ass out, and then takes the doctor and his wife on a road trip to find his kid.

Meanwhile, Gortner gets a Colonel to sign off on a helicopter, and he’s soon stalking Tillman through the air.

The second killer ingredient here is the sheer illogical nature of the characters, in particular Cliff De Young’s doctor character, Vincent Ryan. All this dude does is whine, and bitch and complain, and he seems eager to break away from Tillman, even though he’s their only source of protection. In fact, Vincent and his wife Linda (Blakely) decide to part ways with Tillman, which gets them into trouble with some bikers. Vince gets his nose broken and his wife’s narrow corridor almost gets renovated into a double wide hallway, but Tillman shows up with his rifle and starts blowing biker scum away. Afterward, Vince is still eager to brave the potential gang rape of his wife by leaving the security Tillman provides just so he can go help others. That’s pretty unbelievable, but it gets much worse. What practically murders the film is the ensuing romance between nurse Linda and Tillman.

Once Nurse Linda realizes that her husband is a total pencil neck twerp incapable of protecting her, she starts making eyes at Tillman. De Young gets the drift and splits. In a pointless excursion, both Tillman and Nurse Linda find an abandoned hotel somewhere and decide to fuck. This dude’s wife just got raped and murdered by Neo-Mansonites, and not even 48 hours later he’s already nailing some other broad? What an asshole. Hilariously, amidst the approaching post apocalypse, these two seem more concerned about how they’re going to explain to Tillman’s son why he has a new mommy now.

Eventually, they find his kid hiding in some pre-designated cave. I guess they had a contingency plan in case the world went to hell while he was away at summer camp. The ending is a bunch of nonsense with Lt. Youngman commanding the Hell’s Angel’s chapter of the National Guard to kill off Tillman, but that obviously doesn’t work out well for them because, after all, this film is titled “The Survivalist.”

The bright side is pretty bleak here. Scrubs-clad Cliff De Young plays a great blubbering vagina. Railsback is here, but he’s not nearly coked out enough to be entertaining. You do get to see Blakely’s tits, but even at this point she’s old and dried out, so who cares anyway? Even Gortner is only minimally entertaining with a catch phrase that gets old very quickly. With a lot of trimming, this might have been a smoother ride, but as it stands “The Survivalist” contains all the boredom and anxiety of an eight hour car ride through West Texas. There is only the hope that you might fall sleep until you reach your destination. The only reason this is slightly better is that you can at least hit eject.

For the morbidly curious, here are the first fifteen minutes of the film, courtesy TheRareMovieGuy. Admittedly, it's good for some laughs, but it deteriorates quickly.

The film was apparently based on the cultishly popular pulp series, "The Survivalist" by Jerry Ahern, though they seem to share little outside of a few themes.

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