Movie Review: “How to Save Us”


Writer-director-actor Jason Trost’s “How to Save Us” is a clever mash-up of the zombie apocalypse thriller and ghost story genres. But this lean indie picture runs out of surprises early and never overcomes flat, uninvolving acting, primarily by the eyepatch-wearing filmmaking in a tour-de-dull performance.
Trost gives us an empty world — actually the island of Tasmania — abandoned by people thanks to a “virus.” That’s the government cover story. His brother says otherwise. But brother Sam (Coy Landreau), seen mostly in flashbacks “39 days earlier,” is missing.
Sam was on solo walkabout in Tasmania when he noticed the phones weren’t working and there was no one around. He missed the “Evacuate Now” posters, radio and TV broadcasts.
He somehow managed to mail a parcel to brother Brian (Trost), with a composition notebook filled with “research” about what’s REALLY happening. “How to Save Us” is on the cover.
What we learn –aside from postal workers being the last to flee (apparently) — is that “The radio can hear them.” That “they” are “attacted to electricity.” The “ashes of the dead” are a shield, and “graveyards are safe” havens.
Brian hires a boat to get him to the empty island and tries to follow in Sam’s tracks. He keeps a radio on, which plays eery oldies — scratchy folk, country, pop and jazz records, Winston Churchill speeches. Brian’s self-narrated explanation for this is balderdash, but it’s a cool effect.
As are the empty streets, beaches and forests. The reason dystopias about the collapse of civilization — viral, nuclear or zombie disasters — often work is that it’s incredibly unsettling to see yourself as alone in a hostile world.
Brian isn’t alone. The “ghosts” are visible through the infrared filter on a camcorder, an arresting and chilling effect. He must cover himself with the ashes of the dead, avoid electricity (save for the camera and radio, apparently), spray paint messages for Sam and hope they cross paths.
Brian coping with the recent death of his father feels like a plotline shoehorned in to add “meaning” to it all. But there isn’t much. Trost, whose “The Fp” and “All Superheroes Must Die” enjoy “cult” status (at least in his biography), has aimed for another cult film.
But he’s his own weakest link, competent on screen — but dull.
“How to Save Us” has enough novelty in it that you could see Trost selling the script, or at least a pitch for the script, to a studio. Making his own movie about it wasn’t a bad idea, either. But starring in it was.


MPAA Rating: unrated, with profanity, scenes of supernatural terror

Cast: Jason Trost, Coy Landreau, Kate Avery
Credits: Written and directed by Jason Trost. A Parade Deck release.

Running time: 1:18

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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