28th Nov2014

MonsterFest 2014: ‘How To Save Us’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Jason Trost, Kate Avery, Ryan Gibson, Coy Jandreau, Tallay Wickham, Michael Gupta | Written and Directed by Jason Trost

how-to-save-trost

There are very few film makers working today who have the same filmic sensibilities as me, whose work resonates with me the most – be it because I can see influences in their work that inspired me or be it that they’re just as demented as me (and I mean that in a good way). In fact I can count them on one hand: The Astron-6 guys, Dustin Mills, Kaare Andrews, Pearry Teo and Jason Trost. These are the film makers whose work I will watch no matter what the subject matter, no matter the budget and no matter what the opinion on a particular film is…

It’s interesting to note that all those mentioned are relative newcomers to movie-making. In fact it has only been three years since I first saw Jason Trost’s debut feature The FP, an amazing blend of dance flick and revenge movie that I instantly fell in love with. Since then Trost has written and directed a distinctly new take on the comic book movie, All Superheroes Must Die; the reality-themed Wet and Reckless (which I am, sadly, yet to see) and this, How to Save Us, a post-spocalyptically styled ghost movie that – like Trost’s other work – is at once both an new take on an old story and an homage to what has come before it.

The official synopsis runs like this: Brian’s younger brother Sam goes missing in Tasmania during the middle of a mysterious quarantine. Brian must travel to the deserted island to save his brother from a land now solely inhabited by demonic spirits. In order to survive, he must follow a set of rules: including covering himself with human ashes, to cloak his presence from the malevolent entities haunting the barren landscape. But will this buy enough time for Brian to find his brother, or will they both be stuck in a hellish realm of the dead forever?

But what that synopsis doesn’t tell you is that this film real tour-de-force role for, and performance from, Trost, who essentially carries the movie as Brian. Whilst we may see his brother Sam (and his family) in flashbacks it is Trost who moves the narrative forward, it is Trost who engages with the audience, and it’s Trost who keeps you watching during the films quiet periods. For this is not a film that is packed with action and special effects, quite the opposite – How To Save Us is a slow, powerful, somewhat introspective, look at family through the eyes of a man who has lost his. It just happens he lost some of his family to a mysterious supernatural force on an island in Tasmania!

Plus… As an added bonus Trost uses the iconic Nintendo Power Glove as a weapon in the movie. How can you not love a film featuring that?!

The other “star” of How To Save Us is the visuals. Trost, and his cinematographer Phil Miller, have made the inviting outback look like the last place on Earth you’d ever want to be, cities look like they haven’t been occupied in years. The film’s colour scheme is as grey as the human ash Brian has to cover himself with to survive and as bleak as the quasi-apocalyptical, 28 Days Later-esque story. Marry that with the freakish, evil, unseen “ghosts” that permeate the landscape and you have a film that keeps you on edge, ramping the eerie factor to the max – never knowing when the quiet, serene loneliness of Brian’s situation will be broken.

When it comes to low-budget film makers I often say that someone should take a chance and give them a big budget to work with so that they might bring their ideas to the big screen. But I don’t think Trost needs bigger budgets (I’m sure he’d like bigger budgets, but I don’t think he NEEDS them) to produce the types of unique, outstanding films he puts his name to. His skills as not only writer, director and actor, but also special effects artist and producer give him a unique edge, allowing Trost to create films that haven’t been seen before and explore ideas that the studio system would surely frown upon. And How To Save Us is a perfect example of that.

***** 5/5

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