Following on from the likes of The Omega Man (1971) starring Charlton Heston, 1985’s post-apocalyptic thriller The Quiet Earth is set straight after an event that has wiped out every living thing in the world, seemingly leaving one man standing: Zac Hobson (Bruno Lawrence). Starting with Hobson appearing to awaken from a deep sleep, naked on a motel room bed, he drives around, honking his horn, hoping someone or something will hear him. It soon becomes apparent that he is alone with not one sight or sound from another human or animal anywhere. And this is when it gets interesting as The Quiet Earth isn’t really your standard post-apocalyptic thriller.
Adapted from a 1982 novel of the same name, The Quiet Earth‘s cult status comes from its interesting themes. Looking at more obvious themes such as loneliness, isolation, confusion, fear, emptiness, despair and an eventual descent into madness – let’s face it, being all alone on an empty Earth with no idea what’s going on, we all would probably lose it a bit – but also hinting at grander themes such as possible hell or purgatory, religion and the possible rejection of it, black holes and dimensions and a new beginning on Earth.
Of course, the latter themes aren’t always obvious and initially it felt like this was going to be an average, end of the world B-movie; Mad Max without the violence or The Omega Man without a big name actor. As the film moves on, these themes become more apparent as the lines between fantasy and reality get blurred. At least in Zac’s head, who goes for a naked (again?!) swim in the sea, dresses in women’s clothes and fires a shotgun at a TV. Now, while this might seem like a normal weekend for you or I (me anyway, don’t judge yeah), the most interesting part of Zac’s current state of mind is when he gives a speech announcing himself as the president of “the quiet Earth” to a bunch of cardboard cut outs; the cut outs of which are infamous historical figures. So far, although becoming more entertaining, due to the occasional glimpse of New Zealand’s (where the film is set) typical dry sense of humour, you do begin to wonder where the film is heading. The grander themes of The Quiet Earth maybe not being obvious to the casual viewer.
Fortunately, things become more interesting with the arrival of another human. And more importantly, female, in the form of Joanne (Alison Routledge) and the two make an instant connection. Which is handy as it seems like they are the only two people left on Earth at this point. So Zac and Joanne go about trying to make the most of their time together, getting closer when Zac runs into Api (Pete Smith), a Maori who appears threatening at first but soon all three warm to each other and roam New Zealand together, trying to find out exactly what happened and why. It’s then that the film picks up with big revelations, surreal moments and a love triangle (which apparently is a standard in post-apocalypse films…) and as it builds to its exciting final scene and dramatic, fantastical final seconds, you may be scratching your head by the time the credits are rolling. But with a bit of post-film analysis, despite it having to be saved by a strong third act, The Quiet Earth ultimately comes across as an intelligent, well made and acted low budget film about man’s obsession with the universe and creationism itself and the beliefs that surround it.
If you are still scratching your head long after The Quiet Earth has finished, Arrow Video have done their usual excellent job of compiling whatever extras they can gather for this release. This includes: An interview with renowned critic Kim Newman on post-apocalyptic movies of the eighties and before; a very helpful video essay on The Quiet Earth by critic Bryan Reesman and the standard stills gallery and theatrical trailer, along with a reversible sleeve featuring new and original artwork by Laz Marquez; first pressings also include an illustrated collector’s booklet with new writing by Amy Simmons. Overall, a decent package for this interesting cult New Zealand film.