review by Diablo Joe
There’s a certain definite charm to those sort of action thrillers that came out of the exploitation era. Reaching their height in the 1980s, they were, at their pinnacle, exemplified by the likes of “Lethal Weapon,” and at their kitschiest, the T&A films of Andy Sidaris, such as “Mailbu Express.” Filled with high-concept leads you could describe in two to three words (often hyphenated), tossed into teeth-gritting life or death situations. These movies expected you to pull up your popcorn and check your brain at the door. Today, the Hollywood version has mutated into the slick and stylish “John Wick,” while films like “Haven’s End” are indie film’s contributions.
Following a mysterious series of widespread terrorist-like attacks, disgraced trauma doctor Alison, her Army vet fiancé, and her best friend escape to the woods in an attempt to survive the Apocalypse and themselves.
Films of this nature can get away with a lot of stretches in realistic logic. The characters and situations are more archetypal than real-world. Said disgraced trauma doctor just happens to have an old family buddy who’s a survivalist with a ready stockpile of weapons and MREs? No prob. We’ll take that, especially when you get a shoot-out in the bargain. These films work best when they build their universe with an internal logic all its own and then populate it with characters we can root for and bad guys we can hate.
It’s the latter that probably causes the most trouble for “Haven’s End.” Alison herself (played by Catherine Taber, best known as the voice of Padmé Amidala in Star Wars: The Clone Wars) is pleasant enough but is sketchily defined, missing an opportunity to give us a cool female protagonist. Despite a great, strong start as a take-charge woman, she quickly becomes wishy-washy (as well as sporting some awful gun-etiquette). Most every other character is unpleasant to the point of annoyance. Alison’s ram-rod stiff beau spends the entire film in chest-beating competitions with every other man in the movie. The one male with any flair exits the picture early on, leaving us with nothing but what one character aptly describes as “toxic masculinity.” Decent people disintegrating due to stress or other forces is interesting. Unpleasant people becoming more so isn’t. Only Alison’s best friend Jessi (well played by Megan Hayes) ever fully delivers as a character.
Another issue is the film’s ambiguity. Keeping an audience speculating can be a great thing, but the filmmakers need to assure us that they know what is going on, even as they conceal it from us. Whatever is causing all of the film’s chaos doesn’t need to be defined, but its consequences do. The filmmakers toss way too many variables into the mix. Are people being driven mad, becoming pod-people, a la “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” or zombie-like? All three? Ground rules, even basic ones, are necessary to engage an audience. They just aren’t there.
These issues would probably be a bit less of a problem had the film its audience with a few more dynamic scenes of action to get the blood pumping both figuratively and literally. The threats remain far too existential when we could really use a good kick in the teeth from time to time. “Haven’s End,” with a bit of work, could have benefitted its cast a bit more and provided its audience with a fun flick that better paid off on its bang of an opening.
This devil of a reviewer gives “Haven’s End” 2 out of 5 imps
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