Directed By: Matt Ogens
Starring: Patrick Schwarzenegger, Sophie Clark Kennedy and Jacob Lofland
Films about young adults or children struggling with the reality of a dystopian future are nothing new. A BOY AND HIS DOG, LORD OF THE FLIES, and BATTLE ROYALE all predate THE HUNGER GAMES and DIVERGENT films by years if not decades. They have always been an effective way of conveying the isolation and hopelessness that accompanies growing into adulthood. So, with that in mind GO NORTH the latest film from director Matt Owens owes more to 1984 or BADLANDS than the ever so played out YA novel to film adaptations that have been infesting our multiplexes over the last 7 or 8 years.
GO NORTH takes places in the wake of an ill-defined catastrophe that has wiped out most of our population. A small community of children and teenagers are left following former high school jocks as they attempt to hang on to the ashes of civilization. Josh (Schwarzenegger) is something of an outsider in this apocalyptic fraternity. He quietly goes through his long days of classes on survival and manual labor to return to a dilapidated building he calls home. The jocks that run this collective do so with the same malice they ran their small town high school. So, when Josh stands up for Jessie (Sophie Kennedy Clark) it’s clear there will be a price to pay for his insubordination.
In Josh’s estimation, the impending winter will take more than a few casualties as there simply are not enough provisions for the town. Motivated by the fear of retaliation and avoiding a Donner party like ending, the young couple decides to head out on their own in search of other survivors.
Schwarzenegger gives an honest and grounded performance as Josh that is complimented by Kennedy’s emotionally guarded Jessie. The two feel incredibly natural with one another and the film allows us to watch their bond grow over the course 90 minutes. The film could have easily shown that these were simply the only two survivors who weren’t bat-shit crazy so they should pair up. Instead, we see them develop a genuine trust and admiration for one another. While this film is a post-apocalyptic thriller it seems to be more concerned with the relationships than the action.
Beautiful photography from John Tipton (who has an extensive background shooting sports and documentaries) allows his camera to float through scenes and create moments of grace. In lesser hands, GO NORTH could have easily been developed devoid of any aesthetic pleasure. A hypnotic score from former T.S.O.L member and REPO MAN keyboardist/arranger Greg Kuehn gives the film an out of step feeling that acts as a somewhat jarring but powerful juxtaposition to Tipton’s photography. Equal parts TANGERINE DREAM and JOHN CARPENTER it feels like something from another era.
Ogens opens his film with the Orion logo from the 80’s and to be perfectly honest I’m not sure if this was a choice or if Orion just hasn’t gotten around to updating their logo. I’m willing to bet this was a choice but who knows? In the time it’s taken me to type this I could have researched (googled) it and left this particular question mark out of the piece but I want to believe in my gut. So, no googling for this one. That logo took me back to STRANGE INVADERS, THE TERMINATOR, THE RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD and REMO WILLIAMS: THE ADVENTURE BEGINS. It took me back to the glory days of VHS. And this is a film that would have fit perfectly in that universe. This is no way an over the top, splatter-fest like TURBO KID or an homage like STRANGER THINGS but an actual love letter to the quality films of that era. This is the kind of film that the clerk with good taste would have recommended.
GO NORTH will undoubtedly find an audience with younger viewers but the film is executed on a level that makes it accessible to cinephiles of any age.