Refuge is a suspense-thriller about a family struggling to survive in the wake of a great catastrophic event. As food and supplies dwindle and the threat of marauders becomes more apparent, the family must ultimately face the decision to either stay in hiding or go in search of an elusive mansion they've heard of - that may or may not exist.
Lilly Kanso, Andrew Robertson
Sebastian Beacon as Russell
Carter Roy as Jack
Chris Kies as Kyle
Amy Rutberg as Nell
Over the years my personal preferences have changed. Where I once looked to film for fast-paced, in-your-face shocks and jump scares, I now tend to keep my eyes open for quality stories that place enormous emphasis on characters, their reaction and their humanity, in general. Maybe it’s just a case of growing older, and maybe it’s just the simple fact that two decades ago I wasn’t mature enough to look into deeper layers of celluloid. Whatever the case, my thoughts on cinema have evolved into something else. Something different. Something more akin to studying than simply watching.
Andrew Robertson doesn’t give us some monumental picture that utilizes themes completely foreign to fans of genre films. Rather, he delivers a pretty straight forward post-apocalyptic tale that places all focus on a small group attempting to survive in a world where the food has been devoured, the water’s all but dried up and savages walk the desolate landscape in search of any home to pillage. And it doesn’t matter whether those homes are occupied or not, these cruel bastards are going to take what they need to survive, and that’s all there is to it.
The questions quickly becomes painfully evident: Can the few pure, sensible human beings who still have a heart and compassion survive with merciless beasts wandering the land? Will they be forced to fight to survive? If they are forced to fight, who, exactly, in this small entourage will live to see another bleak day, and who will have their heads bashed in by baseball bats, or brains blown from the back of their skulls by high caliber firearms?
A cross between Douglas Aarniokoski’s The Day and Jeremy Gardner’s The Battery, Refuge is a magnetic picture, pulling at the heart’s strings while forcing the audience to really rally behind the few remaining men and women with sound moral codes. The cinematography, while not too flashy, fits the story like a glove (not O.J.’s!) and amplifies the depressing tone of the flick. And the isolated shooting locations work perfectly in leaving us with the impression that this is indeed a barren land. A barren land in which tomorrow may never come.
There are very few familiar faces cast in the picture, but that doesn’t hinder the performances from this group. They’ve dumped every ounce of passion they have into the film, and that too impresses on a very grand scale. Sebastian Beacon, who plays Russell, once a marauder, now a man refusing to dole out harm to the innocent, nails his character in unbelievable fashion. Beacon is immediately likable, and while he splits time as the male focal lead, he’s never once outshined. I’d love to see this kid nab a few bigger roles in other quality productions in the future. Carter Roy, who depicts the other male lead, Jack is also great. He’s got the mindset to survive and he convinces us – for extended stretches – that if we glance out the window, we’ll see an uninviting reality. Other standout performances come our way courtesy of Amy Rutberg and Chris Kies, who turn in respectable work. It’s a fine cast, and that’s really all that need be said.
Some may feel the film moves a bit slowly, but I would implore anyone with that opinion to study the personalities you see on screen. They’re likeable. They don’t stumble into foolish clichés (credit goes to Robertson and Lilly Kanso, who give us a crisp script designed to cater to the moviegoer with sensibility in mind). They’re empathetic. And, we really, really want to see them survive – every last one of them. Refuge isn’t heavy on action, but it’s anchored by heart and tremendous effort. When it comes to micro budget pictures, they don’t get much better than Refuge. This is an amazing slice of entertainment that’s going to force the audience to juggle a myriad of emotions. Some of those emotions will stick to your bones long after the feature has wrapped. Look into the film, you won’t be disappointed.