Calum Grant, Brad Olsen

While the premise of a global plague wiping out most of the world's population would seem to require massive resources and spectacular horror, Calum Grant's and Joshua Atesh Litle's "Ever Since the World Ended" is framed as an intimate document authored by Cal (Grant), who interviews various survivors 10 years after the catastrophe.

Beginning with its inspired title, Calum Grant’s and Joshua Atesh Litle’s apocalyptic “Ever Since the World Ended” continually tickles the mind while leaving a heavy lump in the chest, establishing and sustaining a unique low-key tone of mystery and dread. While the premise of a global plague wiping out most of the world’s population — and reducing numbers in story’s central locale of the San Francisco Bay Area to a mere 186 — would seem to require massive resources and spectacular horror, pic is framed as an intimate document authored by Cal (Grant), who interviews various survivors 10 years after the catastrophe. This response to both AIDS and “The Blair Witch Project” should elicit significant attention from creative fests and distribs looking for the Next Thing in midnight programming.

Speaking in hushed tones but determined to provide a record of events, documentarian Cal sets out to talk to a range of folks who’ve managed to escape a malevolent virus that spread with such parabolic extremity that it remains the No. 1 conversation topic a decade later. A doctor (Dr. Mary Rutherord) still looks fatigued contemplating the disaster, and scavenging surfer dudes (Simon Thieriot, Stewart Fallon) happily live off the land and joke that they’d prefer to be disposed of as fish bait and shot out of a cannon. Small groups break into barricaded homes to find the dead and extract useful items for the living, while a commune of sorts headed by Mama Eva (Angie Thieriot) studiously tries to maintain civilization with music and conversations about parenting.

The filmmakers cleverly insert elements of drama and conflict into a world where ostensibly nothing should be happening except sheer survival. Mad Mark (Mark Routhier), a former emergency worker caught up in the urge to set fires, had been exiled into the dangerous outlying countryside for a few years but has now returned to the city. Despite his agitated-sounding promises to mend his ways, Mark’s presence triggers hot discussions in the communal household, which is the closest thing S.F. now has to a city council and government.

The debate raises moral questions regarding who shall live and who shall die, and even the purposes of civilized society, to an unexpected level of consideration — particularly so when the debate is eventually resolved in ways that call into question the remaining shards of that civilization.

Cal works up the courage to trek north of the city with a “traveler” named Santosh (Brad Olsen), into the now-savage hinterlands of Marin (a nice Bay Area joke, since that area is the region’s toniest), where he encounters Dan (Dan Plumlee), once an everyday city guy now trapping for game. It’s here that pic loses some verisimilitude, since Dan hardly looks like he’s been in the wilds for six days, let alone six years. And in the city itself, there’s little indication of decaying physical infrastructure, an element that a standard SF thriller would hardly overlook but which this deliberately non-tech, intimate mock-docu cannot completely ignore either.

An attack that leaves Santosh mortally wounded is shot in the style of combat photography, adding another layer to the film’s visual and dramatic dynamics. Thesping is of a piece with pic’s conceit as a “found” docu, rarely betraying any sense of playacting for Grant’s and Litle’s mobile cameras. The pair opted to shoot in PAL process — marking a considerable improvement in visual resolution over more common NTSC digital video — as well as a highly unusual widescreen aspect ratio that frees video from constraints of a TV-like image.

Ever Since The World Ended

Production

An Epidemic Films production. Produced by Calum Grant, Joshua Atesh Litle. Executive producer, Kate Montgomery. Directed by Calum Grant, Joshua Atesh Litle. Screenplay, Grant.

Crew

Camera (color, widescreen digital video), Litle; editors, David Driver, Litle; sound, Litle. Reviewed at Kodak screening room, L.A., March 26, 2001. (In L.A. Film Festival.) Running time: 78 MIN.

With

Calum Grant, Adam Savage, Mark Routhier, Angie Thieriot, Josiah Clark, Jessica Viola, Dan Plumlee, Linda Noveroske, Ronald Chase, James Curry, Brad Olsen, Ed Noisecat, Simon Thieriot, Stewart Fallon, Dr. Mary Rutherord.
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