Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Dead By Dawn 2016: Astraea (2015)

Astraea is a post-apocalyptic movie that to sketch out the big picture by layering and providing extra detail to a small selection of main characters who become a flawed, tumultuous, family unit.

Nerea Duhart is the titular character, a young girl journeying across the isolated countryside with her brother, Matthew (Scotty Crowe). They have survived a strange world-altering event, in which people simply fell down dead on the spot, and Astraea is convinced that a couple of relatives have survived. She's convinced of this because she believes herself to be slightly telepathic. But she and Matthew both end up surprised when they spot James (Dan O'Brien) and Callie (Jessica Cummings). Initially just glad to meet some other people who may be able to help them plan their journey, Astraea and Matthew soon start to become more and more attached to their new "friends".

Boasting a quartet of wonderful performances, a solid script from Ashlin Halfnight (and if that's not the name of a cool vampire slayer then I don't know what is), and competent direction from Kristjan Thor, Astraea certainly has one or two moments familiar to fans of this subgenre, but also manages to steer things far enough away from the well-trodden path to make the movie feel almost original and fresh. It works best when viewed as a drama about the family dynamic being tested under extremely stressful circumstances, but that doesn't ever allow the background to ever disappear. Motivations are almost always based on the exceptional landscape, with even simple targets called into question if they don't benefit some short-term plans.

Crowe and Cummings both do very well with their characters, but it's hard to argue against them being the weaker two of the four. Duhart and O'Brien are the stronger participants, thanks to the development of their characters and also some slightly stronger performances, with Duhart particularly impressive considering how she has to mix childish innocence with an ability to face the desolate world she now inhabits.

All in all, this is a film that plays to its strengths. In fact, it makes every factor into a strength. The low budget isn't ever on your mind. Neither is the small cast, or the limited locations. All you will think about is a real world that has been affected by a strange blight, and the people trying to survive in it. At least until the end credits have rolled.

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