Film Review: These Final Hours dir. Zack Hilditch
So it is a hot summer day in Perth and you just found out that in a matter of hours, the whole world is going to go up in smoke and everyone is going to die a horrible fiery death, what do you do?
These Final Hours is essentially on the surface a feature length answer to that question. It is the first feature film from Perth writer/director Zack Hilditch and follows Nathan Phillips as the anti-heroish James as he looks confused and tries to figure out what he should do with ‘these final hours’.
Hilditch is a graduate from Curtin University and when I began my studies there a few years ago, he was a guest lecturer for one of the first year production units. It was during this lecture in which we were shown a short film that Hilditch had made. Set in Perth and entitled Transmission, the short was about a ten year old girl and her father who travel across Western Australia to try and make their way to a safe zone from a virus that was killing everyone. At the time, Hinditch mentioned that he was trying to get the film made into a feature, and These Final Hours is the result.
Hilditch’s full length film is a slight mutation of the short film from 2012. Rather than a virus, it is some sort of fiery cataclysm that threatens the world and instead of a father and his daughter, Nathan Phillips plays James who just so happens to come across a young girl who needs to be taken back to her Father before everything goes to hell.
There are many filmic pleasures within this movie and for a first time feature, the direction of it is really very impressive. Hilditch certainly appears to know what he is doing and never really lets on that he is at the helm of his first big project. Indeed, overall, These Final Hours feels like it is trying very hard and that should be commended. It is actually very easy to notice when something in a film (or the film overall) has been down half assed, and every aspect of this film, from its performances to its editing and cinematography feel as if the players involved have put in a lot of effort. However, for all of its trying, These Final Hours is very far from a perfect movie.
Nathan Phillips is a bit irritating at times and although I generally like him as an actor, by the end of These Final Hours, I could not help but think of him as the Australian Mark Wahlberg. Indeed, all performances in this film are a little bit underdone considering that it is the end of the world that we are dealing with. But Kathryn Beck does give a really enjoyable performance as the intoxicated Vicky; she is annoying and loopy but it seems to somehow work better than any of the other performances overall. She sort of reminded me a bit of Sharon Stone in Casino, with just a little less crazy.
The biggest problem that These Final Hours has overall (and this is something that many ‘end-of-the-world’ films face) is that it does not really know what it wants to be. There are moments of sheer craziness, with rock music, sex, drugs, violence, fun camera movements and strange sounds and then there are times where the film is highly sentimental and the balance is never quite found between the two extremes. Hilditch seems to have some love for transgressive cinema and that keeps creeping up in different shots or cuts in the film. It tastes at times like it wants to shock, disturb or unnerve you and it probably could…These Final Hours probably could have been a really crazy, nasty, bleak apocalypse film. But Hilditch seems to always pull back to more sensible (and commercial) narrative and filmic points.
Most of this all comes from the writing and quite frankly Hilditch is a much better here as a director than writer. The dialog is often too sentimental, or just plain unbelievable and many important characters are not realized in the way that your really need them to be for you to give a shit. The more I think and write about it, the more I really wish that we had just gotten something nastier, sleazier or darker. Not because These Final Hours totally fails as a straighter disaster film but simply because Hinditch obviously works better within this area. The best scenes in the film lend itself to such a style and the introduction to the party house in the middle of the film, along with some elements of the opening are the films strongest moments. And also because the opening titles indicate a vastly different film then the one we end up sitting through.
There also moments that feel slightly pretentious and again this is due to the script and poor dialog. I have a feeling that in some regards the film can and may even be intended to be read as allegory for substance abuse or drug and alcohol related life styles and that would have been just fine, but there are simply too many moments where the film tries and fails for real emotion and feels too unbelievably corny.
These Final Hours is by no means a bad film and for a first time feature it is a perfectly fine accomplishment. Hilditch is a vastly better director than he is a writer and These Final Hours does have directorial style to it and I would be lying if I said I was not already interested to see what this local guy will do next, I just hope that he has a more experienced hand helping him with the script.
But do go and see These Final Hours, it is not very long and the film and has enough hard work behind it to make it worth your ticket money. I will admit that if for no other reason I would say people should see it because it is a young Perth film maker who clearly has talent and it would be great to see what he can do given more opportunities. But if all of that is not a good enough reason for you to go the cinema, These Final Hours is both shot and set in Perth so you can sit there and go ‘ooo look I’ve been there, how fun.
- Anthony Wheeler