Doomsday Marathon: Quiet Earth

Doomsday Marathon
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Although small, my local video store growing up did stock Quiet Earth. I remember they shelved it in horror, alongside Sleepaway Camp and The Company of Wolves, a section at that point in my young life I was not willing to expose myself to. Over the years I have built up a mystique about the film based solely on the company it kept in this video store and the cover art that promised otherworldly experiences. Having finally watched the movie, I feel wronged somehow by the clerk that put this film in the horror section, and by the cover artist that rendered perhaps the single most deceptive cover image in the history of film marketing. But even more so I feel wronged by the people who made this travesty of cinema.

Quiet Earth is yet another take on the last man premise that Omega Man (previously in this marathon) stumbled upon. What if you were the only man on Earth, how would you cope, what would you do? Like Omega Man, the answer in Quiet Earth is fairly mundane, indulge in the finer things of life, transgress the old laws, go a bit crazy, and when the story demands it, find out that you are not the only person around, thus entering into a new phase of the fantasy: fucking the last woman on Earth. And just when you think it could not get any more obvious, in enters the ethnic strongman to finish off the soap opera love triangle.

Aspiring for a Twilight Zone vibe, the film takes no prisoners, situating us right into the odd shit. A full-frontally naked, middle-age balding man awakes in his bed. The clock has stopped at 6:13 marking the time of the anomaly that wiped most of mankind off the planet without a trace. Naked, the man walks around as his tackle bounces about a bit for the camera. The man is a scientist, and wouldn’t you know it, that may play an important part in the unraveling puzzle of what caused this strange occurrence. The man comes to realize the gravity of the situation and before long is talking to mannequins and wearing women’s clothing. The plot thickens.

Despite the alarming amount of full-frontal shots in this film (including one slow-mo along a beach) and the undercurrent of sexual tension throughout, there is nothing erotic about the film, the principal actors are entirely devoid of charisma let alone acting ability. The conflict that arises feels awkward, the dialogue childish, its not just that the film is bad and ill conceived, but it is also incompetent. Various lines are mumbled incomprehensibly, ‘jokes’ fall flat, and the sense of time passing in the story is completely out of whack (our hero declines into madness, wearing women’s clothing, in what seems a day or two). The one positive thing I can say about it, and what earns the half star, is it is painlessly short (the upside of rushing character development).

Far from being horrific, or erotic, or dramatic, or otherworldly, Quiet Earth is a bunch of clumpy New Zealanders milling about in drab empty landscapes embarrassingly eighties in its naïveté.

Mike Rot
Master of War

16 Comments

  1. …And Rot officially sucks for not liking this pretty swell little genre effort.

    I wonder what you will think of MIRACLE MILE which is playing in the same sandbox and somewhat tone as this one.

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  2. Agreed that the similarities to Quiet Earth and Omega Man are many though, but I dig the vibe of both films. You could do a lot worse for sitting down to watch, as you say, 'Twilight-Zone-type-moviemaking'

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  3. Wow. "travesty of cinema"? Yikes.

    It's not a perfect film by any stretch, but I love the concept and some of the ideas and it kept me engaged as to where it was going. Sure, there's some questionable acting (though not, if I remember correctly, as awful as you seemed to feel), but for low budget sci-fi I thought it did a solid job. And that last shot is really quite amazing…

    I much prefer this to "Omega Man".

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  4. I wish they were easily available (none of them are in print on DVD…) but there was a New Zealand rush of grim apocalyptic-tinged pictures in the late 1970s, early 1980s: Virgil, Sleeping Dogs, The Navigator (Vince Ward, not the Disney kids flick or the Buster Keaton one!). These films would be better up Rot's alley.

    At the very least The Navigator should be a Criterion Release! Currently the out of print DVD is for sale on Amazon for $329 (http://www.amazon.com/gp/offer-listing/B000055ZAY/ref=dp_olp_new?ie=UTF8&qid=1260463598&sr=1-4&condition=new)

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  5. I've been wanting to see The Navigator for years…My local Videoflicks has a VHS copy, but it's an old Pan and Scan atrocity. To jump off from a previous comment Kurt made to Dave's recent post, the very quick move to BluRay (at least it seems to be quick to me) is likely to leave smaller releases like this waiting even longer for proper releases on any format.

    I can't keep up on my "Must See" list anyway, so maybe it's just as well…

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  6. wow…

    first of all it's New Zealand, not Australia…

    "…the single most deceptive cover image in the history of film marketing."?

    you watched the film right to the end right? the last shot? the one on the poster? and frankly the most deceptive cover image in film history is the poster for Future-Kill ( http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0089181/ )

    The Quiet Earth isn't a great film, it has it's problems, but it has some good ideas and achieves it's goals I think….

    and the last shot is one of the most iconic images in film…at least for those who have seen it.

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  7. I am so agreeing on the FUTURE KILL poster, that was another of those great iconic posters that just hid a hilariously bad B-film.

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  8. I seriously must have seen an entirely different film because I do not see on any level how you not only forgive the film its flaws but actually say it is good or even great. As for the cover art, the film that creates in your mind is 180 degrees from what you get, thats what I mean… I was expecting something otherworldly and it is one drab looking film. I find it very lame also how that cover art is injected into the story without context.

    Also I said it was aspiring for a Twilight Zone vibe, nothing against Twilight Zone, its the execution of that goal that is the problem.

    I am curious, those who are defending the film, when did you last see it?

    I would take Omega Man any day over this, and I didn't even like Omega Man, but it has a campy sense of humour and it has Charlton Heston, Quiet Earth is painfully ordinary.

    regarding Miracle Mile, Kurt, strange thing… for the first time ever I broke a dvd, I was taking it out of the case and it snapped in two. I will buy you another copy, not to worry.

    Also apologies about confusing Australia and New Zealand, will correct the post.

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  9. this only happens during the marathons though because I force myself to write about films I haven't seen, good bad or awful, and in regular reviews I only write about things I love or like.

    I could understand the cult status if there was something original, something campy fun, something edgy, something noteworthy at all about Quiet Earth, but there isn't. Even if it is a B-movie, to forgive the acting (which Bob, no, its atrocious, the strongman guy they pick up actually mumbles a lot of his lines) it is still devoid of the kind of fun usually associated with a B-movie.

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  10. Expectations are an interesting thing…I saw this only a few years ago, but had few expectations going in. Oh, I'd heard rumblings about it being a lost gem, etc., but I'd seen enough "lost gems" to know that many were just shiny pebbles. Another factor was that I saw it through zip.ca, so I never really got a look at poster art or DVD covers to set any kind of impression that the film would be a fantastical world. It just made that last scene so incredibly unexpected…

    I like camp, but "Omega Man" missed the mark for me. It sat uncomfortably between serious and camp.

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  11. there is nothing in a cult film that you can point to and say "this is why this film has a cult following…"

    'cult films' just happen…it's ineffable…

    the cover art isn't "injected into the story without context."…there is weird shit going down with the whatchamacallit experiment that (in my interpretation) removes people (those having death experiences) to another version of the earth/reality/dimension (whatever), again and again but the people in the film think that it's just killing/removing everybody else…until at the end it's revealed…

    the production quality of the film can't really be defended…but I liked the ideas when I first saw it back in the day on VHS and again last year(?) when it came out on DVD.

    I think you would have had a different opinion of the film had your expectations not been so distorted by the circumstances that brought you to the film…often unavoidable with films like this.

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  12. Hmmm…I saw this so long ago that I can't really put any critical thoughts together but I do remember liking it a whole lot. Might have to spin this one again to see what all the fuss is about.

    And The Navigator? Wow, that brings back memories. Hope it turns up on DVD some day.

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