By Nick Maylor

Seven teenagers. Five months. Twenty feet underground. No exit.

That’s the line one summary of this Canadian film shot on a microbudget that, while masked as a post-apocalyptic thriller, is more of a dark character study that explores the psychological and physical pressures sustained by seven American teenagers trapped in a bunker beneath a mansion after a cataclysmic event locks the group down in their surrounding fortress for several months.

Daniel von Diergardt in SURVIVAL BOX 2019

The film begins at a graduation party where several teens party in the bunker that was built beneath the house as a paranoid reaction to 9/11. The kids gather there naturally as it is a secluded place to party full of plenty of provisions and comforts. Drinking, smoking up and having a good time, the group finds themselves in a serious predicament when the bunker’s lockdown protocol kicks in.

The group includes; brothers Chris (Paul Syrstad) and Josh (Jake Kenny-Byrne), whose family owns the mansion/bunker, their half-brother Scott (Adam Moryto), Travis (Boris Bilic), Kit (María José Zuniga), Amy (Tori Khalil) and Camila (Michala Brasseur).

As time passes, the group tries to overcome cabin fever, isolation, despair and hopelessness to attempt to survive. Kit (a brilliant María José Zuniga) delivers lots of the film’s tension as someone fighting off mental health issues with a dwindling medication supply, in the midst of the other turmoil of the situation.

María José Zuniga in SURVIVAL BOX 2019

We find out that Amy is pregnant, adding another layer of difficulty to the group’s conundrum. Over the course of months, the group exists as a pseudo-family unit that is slowly breaking down. To reveal more plot details is to dive into spoiler territory so I won’t divulge much further.

While the premise for the film is something that is seen in many modern thrillers and horror films, Survival Box (2019) should not be expected or viewed in this manner. The post-apocalyptic setting serves as a device for the physical and psychological pressures to take hold of the main characters as they slowly break down. The film is well-acted and confidently shot by first-time director William Scoular. Coming in at under one and a half hours, the movie doesn’t waste time setting the scene and dives right into the meat and potatoes of the idea. The director’s theatre background is evident as one could see this material being played out on a stage, with the dialogue and interactions serving as the main course.

While certainly nothing ground-breaking, Survival Box is a refreshing change from thin genre films exploring similar ideas. Worth checking out.

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