‘The One Survivor Of Conifer’ was intended to be a 15-minute short called ‘The Unsurvivable World of Conifer’ that was to be funded through a crowdfunding campaign. Unfortunately, the campaign was unsuccessful but that didn’t deter the team behind the film. Director and writer Curt Dennis adapted the script into a 77-minute feature and decided to just go for it and shoot with next to no budget in the originally scheduled 5 days they had arranged beforehand.
‘The Unsurvivable World of Conifer’ ambitiously intended to have a small cast, zombies, stunt sequences and on-screen deaths – which was quite surprising to learn because ‘The One Survivor Of Conifer’ has none of these. Due to the lack of budget, Curt Dennis worked away at the script to make it work within the team’s means. The result is a truly admirable effort and the team ought to be commended for not being disheartened by their unsuccessful crowdfunding attempt and going out and making their film regardless.
Austin Biggs (Johnny Maya) believes he’s the last person on Earth. He spends his days attempting to fix an old, knackered radio and searching for food and water with only his little stuffed bear for company. After managing to fix the radio he hears the voice of a young child who he learns is all alone. The pair talk daily as Austin tries to learn where the child is hiding so he can get to him before the creatures do.
Johnny Maya is the only on-screen actor in this feature, meaning the audience’s interest and attention rests almost entirely on his shoulders. Maya does an excellent job of depicting a man attempting to deal with the loneliness that comes with being the last person on Earth. As we witness his mental wellbeing deteriorate with each passing day, Maya continuously and effortlessly steps up his performance.
Jonah Paull provides the voice of the child on the other end of the radio and he gives a solid, believable performance as he talks to Austin about missing his parents and playing games to keep their minds off the creatures lurking around.
Obviously, some technical aspects of the film suffer from the film’s lack of budget – such as the audio and lighting in places – it’s hard to grumble when the rest of it works so well considering. The creatures that Austin is avoiding feel sight and if you see them you die (I envision something similar to the creatures in Bird Box). This means we never actually see them – a bold budget-saving idea that needs to be executed properly in order to be effective. If we can’t see the danger, we at least need to be able to feel its presence to get our imaginations whirring. and thankfully the film is successful in making us believe in a threat we never see.
‘The One Survivor Of Conifer’ is almost entirely shot in one location – a grungy, isolated area in London which offers the perfect setting for this story. Austin only leaves this area to collect water, and even though we don’t know where he is and why he has chosen that area to call home, you already get the feeling it’s a lot safer there than on the other side of the gates surrounding it.
Personally, I feel this story would have worked really well as a short because it has all the elements a horror/thriller needs but there was an occasion or two where I was wondering why I was watching Austin wash his bear or having another argument with it, but what Dennis and Maya have achieved here with this no-budget, solid character study just goes to show that whilst having a big budget is nice, the script and performances are what will keep eyes on the screen.
Whilst a film about one man spending his days talking and arguing with his stuffed teddy bear may not sound all that thrilling, ‘The One Survivor Of Conifer’ completely drew me in and dealt an absolute gut-punching finish that I wasn’t expecting. I highly recommend checking this film out when it’s released – which was due to be soon but has now been postponed due to COVID-19 pandemic – but for now, you can watch the trailer below.
Directed by: Curt Dennis
Written by: Curt Dennis, Johnny Maya
Cast: Johnny Maya, Jonah Paull