HOW TO SAVE US
How to Save Us is a borderland zone film that reminds of works such as Stalker (1979) or Monsters (2010) that are set in mysterious terrestrial zones where something alien has happened to alter the terrain into an eerily otherworldly place or where the regular rules no longer apply. Australians have ventured into this territory before with films such as the classic The Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975), Incident at Ravens Gate (1988) and the also Tasmanian-set tv series The Kettering Incident (2016).
I cannot say that I was a fan of All Superheroes Must Die but I was surprised by How to Save Us. Jason Trost has made a film on minimal resources there are only two actors present and he plays one of them. Most of the film consists of Trost or Coy Jandreau as his brother walking through the fields and deserted townships of Tasmania. There is no almost dialogue for the simple reason that the characters do not share any screen time and the only spoken words that come throughout are from eithers voiceover narration. The only other character present is Tallay Wickham as the sister and she is only heard in a phone conversation with Trost at the start of the film. (For that matter, there is not a single scene in the film in which any of the characters share screen time together or with any other people). In many ways, what we have is a highly experimental film one that has eschewed any kind of dramatic structure (there is no real plot to it) and mostly consists of characters walking through empty fields and/or the local bush.
Despite this, How to Save Us absorbs with its intensely mysterious atmosphere. Even despite its lack of plot, the film holds you to it puzzled and wanting to know what is going on. Trost has created a uniquely original series of creatures and a fascinating set of rules for their behaviour/avoiding them. I genuinely reached the end of the film uncertain as to whether How to Save Us can be classified as science-fiction, as was my original assumption, or as fantasy/horror.
The biggest disappointment comes at the end where the film fragments off into a lack of answers. [PLOT SPOILERS]. Trosts protagonist reaches an island and seems to enter a set of ruins that have been littered with items from his childhood where he wanders through encountering memories of the past. This left me unclear if this was some type of allegorical trip through the unconscious or we were meant to take the scenes literally and accept that the spirit beings had physically arranged items there for him to find. This does also tend to resemble the climaxes of films like Solaris (1972) and Contact (1997), which have their respective protagonists travel into confrontation with the unknown only to find that what they bring with them/project onto the infinite is their unresolved family issues. The film trails off with a series of unresolved questions what are the other-dimensional entities? Are they ghosts? Why have they taken over Tasmania and in a way that seems to resemble more an alien invasion than a haunting? This is a film that does fantastically well in the build-up but falters when it comes to the payoff.