In an attempt to find something totally awful and remarkably unremarkable to close out “1980s Post Apocalyptic VHS Rentals”, I discovered a little film that goes by the name “Survivor“. It has a four star rating on IMDB and over half of the dialogue is dubbed inner monologue, written like some prose poem. Sure signs that I’ve found myself a turd in the rough. But ya know what?… It isn’t as bad as all that.
Out there somewhere, relegated to someone’s musty basement and stored on reels of magnetic tape, only now finding their way to the human eye by Youtube and what not, are wretched works of post apocalyptic fiction. I have failed to find one of these films. Perhaps it’s a good thing. I know they are out there. Somewhere. But the “Action Movie Time Machine” isn’t about traveling time to find stinkers. It’s about finding the obscure, the little known and about finding out Action Movie roots.
With that said, the “Action Movie Time Machine” is synched into a parallel time stream for the year 1998.
The year is 1987. Construction begins on the Channel Tunnel, connecting the UK and France. Wang Chung gets everyone to “Have Fun Tonight” and Reagan tells the Soviets to “Tear down that wall!”. Also a nameless astronaut kills a guy in “Survivor”.
“Survivor” begins with our main character, an unnamed NASA astronaut, played buy Chip Mayer. Well the man’s real name is Christopher Mayer, but he is credited as “Chip“. So for the purposes of this review, I’ll call him “Astronaut Chip”.
For NASA, Chip was given the task of deploying a laser defense satellite from his space craft, “Challenger 2”. It seems in this time stream President Reagan’s “Star Wars” project came to fruition. But before the satellite became operational, WWIII began and Chip watched the whole thing unfold from space. This whole NASA/astronaut plot was also used in a similar movie “Def-Con 4“, about an astronaut who return to a post-WWIII Earth in search of his family.
Chip later re-entered Earth’s atmosphere and began traversing the post nuclear war desert-like landscape of Europe, searching for a place to live. Though the war is over, scavengers and survivors still fight to the bitter end if they think there may be drinkable water near.
One of these very scavengers, a Turk who nearly killed Chip, told him about a “promised land” south of Budapest. Since then Chip has been traveling the railways on his solar powered rail car…thing, in search of it. Soon this leads Chip to a night time run-in with a pair of survivors who live on a boat in the desert (what was once an ocean). This run-in gets him stabbed and left for dead, then found and taken in by a former Soviet credited as “The Woman”. Since she has red hair and is a communist, I think I’ll call her… “Red”.
On Red’s sea side villa (a wrecked and rusted out ship), Chip and Red share a tumultuous relationship. A relationship based exclusively on suspicion and sex. This is fine and well, until one day as Red is fishing for lunch, a man grabs her by the hair and drags her off. Chip see this and chases after them.
Chips follows for days, through the desert, until he discovers the ruins of some sort of underground facility that contains fresh water. As Chip investigates the facility, he sees people living and working underground. Operating machinery and growing plants that don’t need sunlight. This is a self sustaining facility. There is just enough food, water and electricity for one hundred and fifty people. If a baby is born, then someone must die. That’s just how closely this ecosystem is balanced.
This ecosystem has been maintained for years by a council of scientists (An engineer, a surgeon, a biologist ect…), but has since been overthrown by Kragg, Richard Moll, who has pillaged the facility’s resources and raped it’s fertile women. Kragg sees the apocalypse as not the end, but the beginning and himself as the future. He wants to control the facility so he can breed a new race of people who will eventually repopulate the Earth and exterminating all other survivors.
Chip learns all about the facility and Kragg from the council, who also tell him that Red originally worked at the facility and escaped after Kragg claimed her as a sex slave. The council then assign Chip with the task of killing Kragg, which would free Red and allow the ecosystem to return to a balance.
Chip agrees and moves to confront Kragg. When he does, Kragg explains his rather interesting world philosophy and asks Chip to join him. Things go south pretty quick. A bit of a cat and mouse chase takes place before they engage in hand to hand combat and soon, Chip manages to stab Kragg up through the jaw and out his head.
After this, the film ends with Chip and Red, now back at her ship, watching the sun set together. So… what about the people living in the facility? Oh well. The End.
If my synopsis seemed a bit sparse it’s because there is a pretty simple story with very little dialogue. As I mentioned in the beginning, most of what’s said is Chip’s inner monologue or voiceover from the Turk or Red who fill in back story. It’s kind of a strange way to tell a story, but that’s not to say it doesn’t work. It reminds me a lot of Frank Miller’s “Sin City”, which is heavy on noir like inner monologue.
I also like the idea of watching WWIII unfold from space. Seeing the blinding white flashes at either end of the Earth’s surface, hearing nothing due to the vacuum of space and wondering if you’re the only human left alive. It’s a pretty heavy idea and I don’t think I’ve seen it (“Survivor” and “Def-Con 4” talk about it but don‘t show it.). Not even in a contemporary film which would be infinitely more feasible with CGI. Perhaps someday.
I admit, “Survivor” wasn’t quite what I was expecting. It isn’t the best but it is competently made and held my attention. It was a shot in the dark and I’m glad I had the opportunity to see it. Watching this on Youtube is a lot like renting VHS back in the day. You see the name, the cover art and a brief description, and that’s all you’ve got.
There were hundreds of thousands of films released on VHS and over half were straight to video. It was easy to feel cheated by spending your hard earned money renting a pile of crap with superb cover art. At least this way I don’t get charged late fees or have to worry about rewinding the damn thing. In a strange way “the digital age” and Youtube are breathing new life into that old rental experience. The adventure and the mystery is still there, it’s just a little lazier.
I’m Cory Carr and this concludes another trip on the “Action Movie Time Machine”. Until next time, Semper Fi Punk!
For more from Cory, check out his website slaughterfilm.com, where he and his good friend Forest Taylor record weekly podcasts, reviewing the films that are legendary, even in Hell!