Release date: 31st July 2014

Director: Zak Hilditch

Cast: Nathan Phillips, Jessica de Gouw, Angourie Rice, David Henshall, Kathryn Beck, Sarah Snook

Classification: MA15+ (Strong Themes, Violence, Sex Scenes and Coarse Language)

Review by Peter Gray

The sun-drenched suburbs of Perth, Western Australia aren’t exactly the most remarkable of locations to play out the end of the world, but for ‘These Final Hours’ the everyday surroundings we’re presented with are as valid as any other locale to see out the end of days as we know it. Sparing the audience any scientific details about the inevitable armageddon, writer/director Zak Hilditch instead wants us up to speed with his characters, people who are long past the questioning stage and preparing for their own demise.

Specifically focused on the last 12 hours of existence – the film occasionally offering us reports of the remainder of the world through David Field’s amateur radio announcer – the self-absorbed Jimmy (Nathan Phillips) is our guide as such as we’re introduced to him during a heated sexual exchange with his mistress Zoe (Jessica de Gouw) at her beachside residence. Wanting nothing more than to see out her time with Jimmy, Zoe blindsides him when she announces her pregnancy which only fuels his desire to leave even more. Unable to deal with the knowledge of never fathering his own child, he sets off to a hedonistic end-of-days bash to be with his girlfriend Vicki (Kathryn Beck), who’s raving her pain away with her unhinged brother Freddy (Daniel Henshall).

Initially promising an oppressive horror film similar to ’28 Days Later’ during the earlier scenes as Jimmy’s route is threatened with random citizens killing and looting at any expense, ‘These Final Hours’ settles on something a little more grim in the ugliness of human nature as Jimmy rescues young Rose (Angourie Rice) from a duo of perverted attackers. Reluctantly assuming the position of guardian, Jimmy sets out to return Rose to her parents, leading to an unsurprising sprout in maturity for the party boy whose conscience is obviously slanted due to his own feelings of (stunted) impending fatherhood.

Whilst it is easy to criticise the film for failing to offer extensive backgrounds on its characters, particularly Jimmy, it’s just as easy to argue that personal history isn’t what defines someone in a situational crisis, and Hilditch presents enough subtle nuances throughout for Jimmy’s change of heart to still emotionally resonate. It’s also a credit to star Phillips (certainly all grown up from his time as John Jarratt’s victim in the original ‘Wolf Creek’) whose rugged magnetism and likeability keep both Jimmy and the film afloat when it starts to derail; the aforementioned party sequence the main culprit as it overstays its welcome and presents a slew of frustrating characters, including the usually charming Sarah Snook (‘Not Suitable For Children’) as an unbalanced party-goer convinced Rose is her daughter.

Though her character is particularly shrill, the shallow Vicki is thankfully redeemed by a suitable turn from Beck, resulting in a spectacular, and relatable, meltdown whilst there’s plenty of heart to be found in Lynette Curran’s role as Jimmy’s mother who has all but given up on her son and, as it would be, can’t quite tailor the goodbye she knows is the last. The real star of the piece though is Rice whose beautifully balanced performance is the perfect catalyst for Jimmy to change his ways, and it’s the little moments between the two that provide the lightest flicker of a spark amongst the ugly darkness that surrounds them.

Technically speaking the film looks and sounds above its miniscule budget, with the sound design dancing between mayhem and controlled silence, and the look of the film dazed in a yellow hue which acts as both the scorching Australian sun and the haze of forthcoming woe. Easy to praise as a solid Australian film, ‘These Final Hours’ is simply a solid film that happens to be Australian.

My rating: 4/5

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