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.