US | 2013 | Directed by Andrew Robertson
Logline: A family struggling to survive in the years following a catastrophic plague are forced to abandon their home to try and find an apparent safe house somewhere in the north.
A debut feature, and a very accomplished one at that, Andrew Robertson’s thriller takes a page or two from the cinema aesthetics of John Carpenter and with the tone of John Hillcoat’s The Road, and the slow-burn epic quality of Stephen King’s The Stand and The Walking Dead series, The Mansion resonates of a high calibre. This is a character study with style to burn.
Washed-out, deadened landscapes, but shot through with a desolate beauty, this is America’s Georgia land, full of melancholy and tranquillity, but bristling with feral danger and ominous echoes. Some great disaster has taken place, most probably a pandemic. All the institutions have perished, humans died in the millions. Survival is for the lucky.
It’s very satisfying watching a cast of complete unknowns all delivering excellent performances; Carter Roy as Jack, Amy Rutberg as his wife Nell, eve Grace Kellner as their daughter Birdie, Chris Keis as Kyle, and Sebastian Beacon as wild card Russell, but also props to a few of the marauders, Mark Ashworth, Joe Manus, and Travis Grant.
Apparently made on the smell of an oily rag (around $US50k), The Mansion was shot entirely on location, and uses its budget wisely; solid actors, convincing art direction, atmospheric cinematography, some impressive practical effects and special effects makeup (used only sparingly), but most notably, the terrific, subdued, but highly original score composed by Carbon Based Lifeforms.
The taut, minimalist screenplay is by Robertson and producer Lilly Kanso, eschewing contrived action set pieces and unnecessary exposition for a brooding tension and the occasional well-punctuated confrontation. This is the kind of movie that sets the tone right from the opening images and sustains it right to its closing shot. Andrew Robertson could be the new Jeff Nichols, I look forward to his next feature.
The Mansion screens as part of Sydney’s Fantastic Planet vs. A Night Of Horror International Film Festival, Dendy Newtown, Thursday April 18th, 7pm.