Hostile (2017)

A scavenger in the post-apocalyptic wasteland, trapped overnight in her overturned vehicle with a dangerous man-creature roaming around, reflects upon her life choices.

I don’t usually review ‘zombie’ films, but it’s not entirely clear what the creature is, despite the fact that it seems highly resistant to injury, so I choose to believe it’s some kind of viral mutant. Regardless, without the post-apocalyptic monster angle this would be a pretty by-the-numbers tale of a rich man getting involved with a pretty heroine addict.

Tropes: trapped with a nocturnal monster; light stops working; radio stops working; twist ending

Toren’s rating: 6.5/10

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Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (風の谷のナウシカ) 1984

Let me start by saying that the trailer posted here does not do justice to the film. The dialogue is clunky, read without any nuance, and the song is not part of legendary Joe Hisaishi’s wonderful score for the film, which goes from orchestral, to sitar + tabla, to 1980s synth masterfully. So, ignore the trailer.

I first saw this film in its dubbed, Americanized version called “Warriors of the Wind,” with over 20 minutes cut from the original, rented, no doubt, on VHS. The cover art for the box, below, shows gun- and lightsaber-toting characters who have nothing to do with the movie, with the main character relegated to the back corner. It wasn’t until 2006 that Disney released the full film in the west, though I’m sure I got a sneak peak through my habit of tape-trading through the 90s.

Regardless, the movie took hold of my imagination like no other. The design of the world, the creatures, the flying machines, and the characters are fantastical yet immersive. You feel the grandeur of the world, but the highly curious and compassionate princess Nausicaa also makes it intimate, with her connection to it.

In brief, 1000 years ago a global war culminated in the “Seven Days of Fire” which decimated human civilization and created the Sea of Corruption–a toxic jungle full of giant insects and deadly spores which threaten to consume the world. Nausicaa lives in a farming community in the Valley of the Wind which keeps the forest at bay. Regardless, her father, the king, is dying from spore contamination. As she tries to unlock the secrets of the toxic jungle, a flying fortress with a deadly cargo crash-lands in the Valley, involving Nausicaa and her people in a conflict between warring nations.

The movie takes enough time that you can appreciate the visuals, the sound design…you can almost smell it at times. You feel the power of the war machines and the giant god-warriors, and the awe, mystery and alien-ness of the toxic jungle and its denizens. Nausicaa has a profound capacity for empathy that connects her with any creature she finds, and which takes her enemies aback, but that empathy also gives rise to uncontrolled rage when turned by injustice and pain. The viewer identifies with her as someone who is just trying to understand the world while getting caught between cold, thoughtless assholes with their power-grab agendas. But even then this movie, through Nausicaa, brings you close to these characters so that you understand their point of view, if not their actions. And when the shit hits the fan in the last act you are with Nausicaa all the way.

Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind is based on Hayao Miyazaki’s original manga

The minor quibble I have with the story is the ‘bird man’ prophecy angle, which I feel is unnecessary and tacked-on. Other than that, this movie is, for my money, a perfect piece of art that is filled with heart. 10/10

The Midnight Sky (2020)

This movie goes out of it’s way to not disclose what happened that caused ‘the event’ which leaves terminal cancer victim George Clooney isolated and a space ship full of scientists homeless. It also asks you to accept that there’s a recently discovered Jovian moon suitable for human habitation, which I guess is fine. There’s not a lot new here, and everything is pointless. At least it looks nice? Let me know if the twist ending makes you angry.

Tropes: twist ending; it’s cold and wolves are after me; mute child

Toren’s rating: 6/10

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Blame! (2017)

Based on a manga, this movie is set about 2000 years after machines took control of a possibly-endless city. The humans are running out of food and tech, and have to venture out into the city where the AI that rules sends out “safeguard” killer robots to exterminate human infestation. A group of kids, striking out on their own against the colony’s wishes, encounter a mysterious and reticent stranger – named “Killy” of all things – who is definitely a robot. He is searching for humans with the genetic capability to control the AI, because a contagion stripped humans of that gene 2000 years ago, which seems weird. They bring the stranger back to the village and he detects another robot nearby, which he re-activates, and the village is okay with this, which seems weird. The two robots take the villagers on a journey to a factory which can create food and also a mcguffin that will save the village (in a roundabout, confusing way). Things don’t go as planned.

The cinematography and action scenes are quite compelling, but the villagers all kind of blend together since they have no distinct features to tell them apart, with the exception of the old man. That and the convoluted worldbuilding/plot make this film as confusing as its title.

Tropes: strong silent stranger; cyberspace is a floaty place your body goes to; baddies have creepy masks; food is dehydrated nutrition paste

Toren’s rating: 6/10

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Fist of the North Star (1986)

It was a manga, it was an anime television series, then it was this movie. The Earth was devastated by nuclear war but also there’s a magic martial arts force called “Big Dipper Divine Fist” (hokotu shinken) and multiple characters want to prove themselves to be the most powerful because…well, I guess we’re just supposed to understand that’s important. And you can only prove you are powerful by killing a bunch of people. Oh and also by controlling women. So, that’s the premise.

A couple of kids show up to lighten the tone a bit, and that’s refreshing. There’s kind of a subplot about seeds being able to make the Earth green again but that’s kind of glossed over in favour of buildings falling on people and fingers being pushed deep into manly chests and heads exploding from ‘qi’ or some such thing. Also, some bad guys are literally as tall as a multi-story building, for reasons not explained. I watched the dubbed version so I’m sure there were some nuances that I missed. Plus, I’m not that well versed on Japanese culture. Still…melodramatic and nonsensical.

Tropes: lone wanderer too cool to talk; thrown into a chasm; women as property; psionic powers?

Toren’s rating: 3/10

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Quintet (1979)

From the director of MASH and Gosford Park comes this confusing look at a frozen five-sectored city where the starving and freezing residents spend their time drinking booza and playing the titular board game. Paul Newman doesn’t like games but he finds himself involved in a whole other game where a group of gamers play a deadly live action version of Quintet using knives and bombs. Also packs of scavenging dogs are all rottweilers for some reason.

Tropes: dogs eating dead humans; random earthquakes

It’s a 4.75/10 from me

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Le Temps du Loup/Time of the Wolf (2009)

What caused the apocalypse? Who is the protagonist in this film? What’s going on with Ben’s mind? Has he always had these emotional problems or did the first scene cause them? Why does he have nose bleeds? Why does nobody ever answer a question? Is it because they’re French or are they actual aliens who don’t understand human interaction? Is this the point of the movie? Why is it called Time of the Wolf? These are all unanswered questions that make this film unsatisfying.

Tropes: Light burning out in darkness;

5/10 from me despite decent acting and cinematography

Here’s the imdb listing. BACK TO THE POST-APOCALYPTIC MOVIE GUIDE

Hell (2011)

The German word “Hell” translates to “Bright” in English. No spikey cars or cyborgs or radiation here. A solar storm has ravaged the earth and water is a precious commodity. Two sisters and a guy are joined by another guy as they try to find a source of water in the mountains. They come across another group and things go real bad. Great acting and characters, and well shot. Definitely not for the squeamish. A German-Swiss production.

Tropes: Abandoned gas station; Injured foot

8/10 from me

Here’s the IMDB listing. BACK TO THE POST-APOCALYPTIC MOVIE GUIDE.

Steel Dawn (1987)

A fairly dull affair with passable acting, with the exception of the child who was pretty dreadful. Swayze’s “Nomad” seeks revenge after his master is killed by an assassin, employed by a warlord who wants the love interest’s water farm. My rating: 4/10

Tropes: wind-powered vehicle, honorable assassin; hidden water source; sand-burrowing mutants; helpful dog; horses; loner hero leaves at the end

Here’s the IMDB listing.

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The New Barbarians AKA Warriors of the Wasteland (1983)

It’s Italian! I watched the English dub which I rented from Black Dog Video. A rather bland wanderer named Scorpion defends settlements against the death cult of which he is a former member. Along the way he is joined by a ski-goggle wearing love interest and his unforgettable rival played by Fred Williamson, with a bow and explosive arrow tip. Awesomely terrible hairdos abound!

Toren’s rating: 4.5/10

Tropes: spiky cars; punishment by sodomy; fanatic religious death cult; naked breasts; child prodigy mechanic/inventor

More info at cult celebrities.

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