The Austin Chronicle

Austin Film Festival: Tear Me Apart

By Richard Whittaker, November 1, 2015, 12:30pm, Picture in Picture

The end of the world will be a strange place, but not one quite bereft of all hope. That's the somber message of Tear Me Apart, the new British post-apocalyptic horror-thriller.

It begins with what seems to be an everyday brutal crime: A man is mugged and murdered on a beach. It's only when his assailant starts to methodically, dispassionately, and hungrily slice open his victim and dine on his flesh that it becomes a strange revelation.

An unknown horror has befallen the world: almost two decades ago, all the women of the world effectively disappeared. What this means around the globe is unseen, because the camera settles on two young Scottish boys, sealed off on a cold, remote coastline. The unnamed older brother (Frazer Alexander) remembers just enough of the Old World to cling on to some degree of normalcy. The younger brother (Alfie Stewart) is born to this strange, brutal new place, so perfectly that his elder sibling struggles to keep him from falling into the strongest survival habit of the new world: cannibalism.

With post-apocalyptic shades of The Walking Dead and Y: The Last Man, writer Tom Kerevan also folds in the quirky menace of the early novels of late, great Scottish novelist Iain M. Banks. The new world is painted in sketches, not least because it is so fresh and scarcely formed. During the opening scenes, it's not even clear if anything that the boys' absent father told them about the world beyond their borders is true. It's only with the arrival of roving outsiders, including possibly the last woman alive (Molly, played by Jennie Eggleton), that the global status quo is revealed. At the same time, Molly's presence is a rock thrown into the predictable millpond of the siblings' reality.

In his debut feature, director Alex Lightman eschews any potential comedy by emphasizing the primal beauty of the Cornish coastline. The last remaining structures are abandoned or collapsing, but there is not the merciless grime of The Road. Instead, he creates a lyrical elegy to the Old World, and the burgeoning amorality of the new. The younger brother's cannibalism is portrayed neither as The Hills Have Eyes-style horror, nor a Cannibal Ferox-esque tribal myth, but a logical response to a world that bled out.

Just as the brothers are caught in transition, audiences for Tear Me Apart may fall between its cracks. It's part of a tiny sub-genre, the virtually gore-free cannibal movie. However, in its dark poetry, it finds a certain kinship with other recent lyrical arthouse horrors from the British Isles, like Nina Forever, Never Let Me Go, and Love Eternal.

Tear Me Apart screens again Monday, Oct. 2, 10pm, at the Rollins Studio Theatre. See for info and tickets, and follow all of our AFF coverage here.

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