I’ve been getting warned lately by conspiracy-theory-buff friends and acquaintances: “Leave Manhattan!! The New World Order is coming, people in cities won’t survive!” And, “When 5-G hits, the nanobots in the COVID “vaccine” are going to cause massive blood-clots and people are going to die like flies! Be near farms! Food supplies will be scarce!”
It was for these kinds of reasons that my younger self studied wilderness survival and tracking at Tom Brown, Jr.’s Tracker Farm in Asbury, New Jersey, in the early ’80s. The farm is gone but Tom Brown’s still teaching tracking to Green Berets and SEALS, and was eventually (of course) played by Tommy Lee Jones in 2003’s “The Hunted.”
As a nation, we survived Prince, the Purple One, recommending we party like it’s 1999 because of scary Y2K—which never happened. Then the population got hysterical again in 2012 because of the scary Mayan calendar. And before all that, in the 1950’s, Edgar Cayce (the “sleeping prophet”) scarily predicted that two thirds of the world’s human population would get wiped out, like, in the general vicinity of the time we’re living in.
Maybe so. But you know what? I refuse to worry about it anymore. More on that later.
A 25-year-old man named Jake (Drew Van Acker) and his flinty dad Troy (Stephen Moyer) share a deep-woods survivor cabin in the Rocky Mountain foothills.
Jake chops wood, carries water, knows guns, skins deer, and swims naked in freezing-cold winter streams. He’s been doing this ever since he can remember. It’s the present day, and father and son live in a wilderness utopia of two, far removed from the ruins of a (supposed) World War III. Dad preaches, nonstop, that luck is nonexistent; there is only preparedness and pragmatic self-sufficiency.
But, as is usually the case in post-apocalyptic tales, it’s not long before there’s a disruption of the peace. In “Last Survivor” this comes in the form of a lone “outsider” (Troy’s term, used many, many, many times throughout the movie) who, according to Troy, was going to shoot them dead and take all their stuff. Jake shoots this guy dead. Troy is happy. But one still needs to be vigilant—apex predators abound. Like bears and wolves and … cougars.
Cougar in the Woods
The next disturbance is Henrietta (Alicia Silverstone), a middle-aged woman who homesteads in the vicinity. Contrary to Troy’s abundant lectures about the absolute necessity of killing women and children because they’re just as dangerous (which leads to thinking “Last Survivors” might be about a zombie-apocalypse), young Jake can’t manage to pull the trigger on Henrietta, spying on her through his sniper scope as she putters about her house.
Why? Because she’s Cher. You know, Cher?? From 1995’s “Clueless?” Even middle-aged Cher is super cute. She reminds Jake of the photo of some random blond chick that he’s got stashed in a lock-box buried far from the prying eyes of eternally paranoid dad. Jake’s never seen a real girl before. Let alone a real woman. Make that a real lonely, older woman. Did I mention Jake is exceedingly handsome and buff in a Tom Brady kind of way?
Annnnd, one thing leads to another, of course, and suddenly Jake and Henrietta are “friends” and Troy gets suspicious. And then apoplectic. Becomes a bit frothy and spittle-flecked, he does. And the unraveling of the idyllic survivor life commences. Cougars are very dangerous to the well-being of irrational dads hell-bent on raising survivalist sons.
And that’s slightly disappointing because life was looking so peaceful in the snowy woods with the wood fires, and the venison, and the smoked jerky, leading you to think you maybe ought to reject your character-dissolving city comforts and the plugged-in insanity of current society and head for the hills and join Jake and Troy’s army.
But you’ve been bamboozled. Eventually the slow reveal of the sociopathy underlying Troy’s virulent misogyny, misanthropy, doomsday predictions, and rabid paranoia, comes to a full boil, and we get into Oedipus Rex territory. But whereas the real Oedipus Rex is tragedy writ large, “Last Survivors” doesn’t lean nearly far enough into either the potential unspeakable sadness, nor the horror of Jake’s predicament, and the ending is facile.
It’s possible that the point of rehashing a fairly stock, “us-against-them” survivalist story is to portray how thoroughly, er, clueless, Jake’s insular life with his father has left him. Though a studly specimen, he’s easily browbeaten by the propaganda of Troy’s single-acolyte cult of personality. Jake doesn’t even know what he doesn’t know; he’s physically a man and a black-belt survivalist but simultaneously a sheltered, stunted naïf.
And why should that be interesting? Perhaps to demonstrate that the extreme opposite of today’s device-dependent, gender-fluid, opioid-addicted children who have been brainwashed by critical race theory and the Pronoun Brigade—can lead to the exact same pathetic state of cluelessness?
And maybe the desire to emphasize and highlight this currently world-saturating cluelessness was the reason for casting Alicia Silverstone, who was not known previously for her dramatic chops? I jest, of course. But for me, the true enjoyment of the movie was witnessing the dramatic blossoming of a former acting-lightweight Hollywood “It Girl.”
Known almost exclusively for “Clueless” (as well as rock band Aerosmith’s music video “Crazy”), as a light-comedy actress in the Goldie Hawn ditz-mode whose golden-girl beauty came down more heavily on the side of adorable cuteness, she’s matured into a dramatic actress to be taken seriously. Motherhood has clearly been good to her. Hopefully this performance will parlay into a higher caliber role for her in the near future.
So as I was saying earlier, regardless of the pandemic and the doomsday predictions, I don’t concern myself with wilderness survival anymore. In Europe, during the plague, medieval cultures turned to God and prayed a lot. In the ancient Chinese dynasties, spiritually inclined cultures would emerge that got everyone meditating, Feng Shui-ing, improving themselves ethically, and drinking fine teas. And then the intrinsic, ever-simmering potential for craziness that the human race contains would calm down and relax, and peace would reign for a time.
The pandemic is petering out, and now there’s talk of a looming financial crisis. “Money will be useless! Head for the hills! Become a prepper!” Lots to terrify and distract the general population these days. I already did my homework for all that; I know how make bow-drills, hand-drills, figure-4 dead-fall traps, leaf-huts, throw rabbit sticks, and am cognizant of the proper order-of-priority of shelter, fire, and water. I’m now focusing on meditation, Feng Shui, and drinking exceptional teas.
Director: Drew Mylrea
Starring: Stephen Moyer, Drew Van Acker, Alicia Silverstone, Mark Famiglietti
Running Time: 1 hour 35 minutes
Release Date: Feb. 4, 2022
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars