Saturday, 13 September 2008

No.69 : Where Have All the People Gone

Where Have All the People Gone at the IMDb

Another film title that should have a question mark but doesn't . After my review of ‘What‘s Eating Gilbert Grape‘ I did some research (well looked up Wikipedia at any rate) and learned that a question mark in the title is considered bad luck in America! Sadly, despite adhering to the question mark superstition, the curse claimed this film as the only thing worse than the production is the VHS box - I mean look at that - who’s going to a rent a video with just Captain Oveur out of ‘Airplane’ on it?

Anyway to business. ‘Where Have All The People Gone’ is a TV movie starring Peter Graves as one of the few survivors of a global calamity. He and his son and daughter are on a camping holiday in the Sierra mountains and are all in a cave when a bright line shines followed by an earthquake. Their friend is caught outside and at first is OK but soon gets sick. As he worsens the family decide to drag him back to town but he soon dies. As they prepare to bury him they find that he’s disappeared. But wait! He’s still there but has turned to dust for no apparent reason.

Suitably puzzled they hit town only to find no one about, prompting the titular question. They load up on supplies with a plan to head back home to Mom. On the way they encounter a crazy lady and a newly orphaned boy and they take them along for the trip. Other encounters involve run ins with a hijacker who nicks their car and a pack of wild dogs that look like they’ve been ferried straight over from Crufts.

As they arrive home some pieces fall into place but can the mystery be solved and will Mom be OK?

Although barely 70 minutes it was a real effort to watch this film to its predictable conclusion. The plot is so ridiculous and full of holes that the actors have to pull out all the stops to avoid laughing at the dialogue. The phenomena, which turns out to be solar flares, is so specific that it turns some people to dust whereas others are fine. Horses survive OK but dogs are driven mad and children get all emotional and lose the power to act in a believable fashion.

It is of course a savvy move on the producer’s part to tout an end of the world scenario that is so cheap. There are no injuries or devastation to show and a pack of salt covers the make up for all the fatalities. The lack of people save on the extras budget and the catastrophe is just a bright torch shone at the camera.

Every character gets an emotional scene with the son particularly bad in his “No, no, no!” phone smashing routine. The daughter nearly ties for awfulness with her clutching a doll for comfort histrionics. Graves himself largely has to carry the can and sadly he drops it from the off. You get no sense that he gives a toss for his family or mankind in general and he’s so devoid of emotion that a nice bed side table could have conveyed the same intensity.

The resolution was equally dire with Mom’s note a real heart wrencher complete with some pretty detailed scientific research. Well done, Mom! As with all these few survivor pieces we end with a voice-over talking about making a new start and hopes for the future - just when I was ready to end it all if this gubbins lasted another 5 minutes!

Best Bit : Graves goes mano a mano with a poodle

‘W’ Rating : 5/23

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