At the edge of an expansive barren valley, all that remains of The Wallace Farm for Wayward Youth is a few hollowed-out husks of buildings. Seventeen year-old Kendal can barely recall when the Oregon valley was still lush. It's been a decade since the last rainfall, and society at large has dried up and blown away. Kendal and the few others that remain barely scrape by, while dreaming of escape. When a greedy water baron lays claim to what little of the precious resource remains underground, Kendal must decide whether to run and hide or bravely fight for the few cherished people and things she has left.
Directed by: Thomas S. Hammock
. Starring: Haley Lu Richardson
, Booboo Stewart
, Max Charles
, Nicole Arianna Fox
, Michael Welch
, Jon Gries
, Michael Massee
, Rena Owen
, Leo Lee
, Barbara Crampton
, Michael McCartney
, Jacqueline Emerson
, Casey Adams
. Music by: Craig DeLeon
Saw this at the Leiden film festival 2014 (LIFF), where it was selected for the American Indie Competition. Given is a post-apocalypse situation, after all water disappeared from a large area. Some farm houses are still more or less intact, with a few sparse inhabitants who try to survive with limited resources and nearly defective equipment. Our main character is 17 year old Kendal, involuntary head of a household that consists of herself and her handicapped brother with ailing kidneys. At the other end of the spectrum we have a greedy water baron, who claims all of the (little) still available water, collects it underground in water tanks, and is supported by a small army that doesn't shy away from lethal violence. As a result, he makes it more and more difficult for everyone in the area to pump up the water they need for their survival.
Our main character Kendal has lots of luck, she is resourceful and armed with plenty of determination. As the story progresses she remains standing, contrary to many others with ill intentions. Kendal even has her way with a sword. Moreover, along the line of sheer luck, her brother with the ailing kidneys who can only walk with crutches, succeeds in shooting three men in a row, in spite of the latter being armed and normally impose their will by means of those armory. It shows desperation all right, but it stretches our belief that this can happen for real.
Beautiful shots of a desolate area, leaving us wondering how this situation came about. I'm not sure, contrary to another reviewer, whether it would have improved our viewer experience if we had known more about the background of brother and sister, and similarly about the reason of the water shortage. The background is hidden along the story, and is revealed sufficiently for us to understand a bit of the context. The message we take away is that there is no hope for the nearby future.
Another irrational element in the plot is Kendal's desperate chase for a distributor cap of the correct type, that fits a plane in a hangar seemingly belonging to no one. She goes at every length in finding the distributor cap, checking every car or van within reach, in order to get the plane in the air. She hopefully assumes that the rest of the plane is in perfect order (it does not look that way from our viewpoint). This chase for missing motor parts is a constant theme throughout the running time.
The label Horror is not correct by my standards, due to missing creepiness throughout. Yet it has all the elements of a slasher movie, that maybe being the reason for the Horror label, coming from the continuous killing that seems necessary in the survival of the fittest process as demonstrated here.
None of the flaws summed up above keep us from intensely following what happens on screen, and feeling along with Kendal and her brother. They seem the only ones standing up against the greedy water baron, in short a perfect candidate for a young female heroine to sympathize with. Due to their lone position we cannot expect them to survive until a final solution is reached, nor do we see a viable strategy to leave the area. Yet, they come a long way, much farther than we could have assumed. For spoilers sake, I cannot tell more about how this story works out eventually, but anyway it is different from what I had expected.
All in all, depressing landscapes, mixed with little hope for some form of escape from the harsh reality due to defective equipment and limited resources all around. From the "post apocalypse" situation that is the center of the action, we cannot expect an "enjoyable" experience. Nevertheless, the believable acting, the camera work in and around the abandoned farms, and the desolated landscapes, all of that cooperates nicely to let us leave the theater satisfied. Also, no action or violence for the sake of it, but what we get perfectly fits in the story line. In conclusion, I am fully prepared to overlook the flaws that I summarized earlier.
Review by JvH48 from the Internet Movie Database.