A vicious man-made fire leaves the once idyllic suburb of Eternity reduced to rubble. Emerging from the ashes is Sloan, a housewife who spent months hidden alone in an underground bunker. Shocked by the fire’s aftermath and her stark new reality, Sloan sets out to find her missing family amongst the wreckage. Befriended by an amicable guide named Peeky Joe, the pair journey through a radiation-riddled wasteland in search of The Disciples, a ruthless gang known to force survivors into slavery. But battling the new world order may take her to a point of no return in this action-packed post-apocalyptic thriller.
User Reviews: THROUGH THE ASHES is an ambitious microbudget post-apocalyptic sci-fi movie which was at least partially inspired by (and filmed amongst) the rubble of California’s deadliest wildfire. While there’s certainly ethical arguments that could be made there, there’s no denying that it gives the earlier part of the movie a chilling Cinéma vérité quality that green screens and CGI environments (particularly on the budget afforded) could not have achieved. While the film doesn’t manage to grapple very heavily in lofty themes, it’s certainly a post-apocalyptic movie that feels very much like a product of 2019. Instead of the typical Cold War era narrative of rival super powers blowing themselves out of existence, this film’s apocalypse is ushered in by a group of extremists (known simply as The Disciples) that take the law into their own hands and go out to pillage, plunder, enslave populations, and establish a new world order. While the exposition makes The Disciples sound like more of a force than the film is ultimately able to depict them, these characters nevertheless feel unique for the genre. Unlike a lot of films of it’s type, this movie directly deals with the people who caused the apocalypse as The Disciples figure in as the movie’s very villains. Also, instead of the lead character being a Mad Max type, she’s a middle aged housewife named Sloan (played by Keely Dervin) and we’re treated to flashbacks of what her life was like before her neighborhood and surrounding areas turned into a wasteland. It’s a more human take on the genre and Sloan’s ambitions are simply to regain her displaced family and maintain a sense of normalcy after losing so much of her old life.
For the most part however, ASHES isn’t overly concerned with plot or substance. It’s an entertaining and briskly paced movie and makes it’s way mostly from action scene to action scene without being boring. While it’s tough to call any of the action set pieces the best in director Fredianelli’s nearly forty film oeuvre, they certainly stand out among what we’ve seen in his past few films and are a return to form to the director’s earlier more Peckinpah infused take on violence. There’s a real visceral quality to the action and the slow-motion discharge of blank ammunition and squibs makes the impact of every onscreen wound or death inflicted felt. The movie also mixes practical and digital effects to a very effective level making the CGI difficult to spot to the untrained eye. In addition to many moments of gunplay, the film contains a rather ambitious car chase sequence. Though not as large in scope (or as dangerous) as the one in Fredianelli’s backwoods thriller HUNTER AND THE HUNTER, the cool cars and vehicle attached heavy weaponry more than make it stand out on its own.
Overall, the acting isn’t the strongest there’s been in a Wild Dogs movie and there are a few awkward line readings and stilted performances. Standing out most among the cast members by far is Fredianelli himself in a turn as a truly sleazy villain. While his character is largely a minor one in the scheme of the film, he’s certainly one of the movie’s most memorable.
Despite being clunky in parts, ASHES still comes recommended to any fan of action cinema. While it might not stand as essential Wild Dogs, the movie delivers the goods and entertains in spades. The running time buzzes by and will surely lend itself well to a good movie night.