A grieving young woman finds herself grappling with monsters from another dimension on what may well be the end of the world in , an atmospheric new film from UK director A.T. White. Can she work through her grief to piece together the elements of a mysterious signal that may be the key to averting the apocalypse?
(Some spoilers below.)
Described in promotional materials as a “cosmic horror thriller,” tells the story of a young woman named Aubrey Parker (Virginia Gardner, ) who has just lost her best friend, Grace. After spending the night in her friend’s apartment, Aubrey wakes up the next morning to find that everyone else has mysteriously vanished and that strange, ravenous monsters are roaming the streets. A strange signal from another dimension seems to be the culprit, opening a doorway between worlds. Grace knew something about this because she left a mixtape for Aubrey with the message “THIS MIXTAPE WILL SAVE THE WORLD.” Aubrey embarks on a scavenger hunt for six other mixtapes Grace made for her to solve the mystery and, yes, perhaps even save the world.
Those seven mixtapes represent the seven stages of grief.
is very much about grief and loss, capturing the almost otherworldly aspect of the process. It’s common to feel isolated and cut off from others, and there’s an insurmountable distance Aubrey feels as she attends Grace’s funeral yet struggles to connect in any meaningful way. The film makes that sense of isolation explicit when Aubrey wakes up the next morning to find she might be one of the last people left on Earth. And those seven mixtapes? They represent the seven stages of grief, according to White.
The script grew out of White’s own personal loss—his best friend died of cancer at the same time White was going through a divorce. “I kind of locked myself away in a snowy cabin in Colorado for a couple of weeks and wrote a script,” he said. “I didn’t mean it to ever be made. It was just to help me deal with the stuff I was going through.” He admits that first draft was so depressing, any resulting film would have been pretty much unwatchable, with Aubrey staying in her dead friend’s apartment the entire time and never venturing outside. But White revisited the script a couple of years later. “I was in a slightly better place [by then], and I could see the journey the character should be going on,” he said.
One of the more striking scenes is an animation sequence, depicting a cartoon version of Aubrey sinking into the sea. White admits viewers typically love or hate that sequence. (I fall into the former category; I think it works really well in context.) For him, that was another way to convey Aubrey’s (and White’s) sense of grief.
“At times I would see a therapist, and they’d explain to me the feelings I was having had to do with removal from yourself, where you don’t feel like you are your own entity anymore,” he said. “You feel removed, not just from the world but from who you are as a person. You don’t feel like you’re in your own story anymore. I thought long and hard on what was the best way to represent that in film, and doing animation was the most literal version of that.”
The blurring of Aubrey’s dreamy visions and the film’s reality has prompted some viewers to wonder whether the supernatural apocalyptic elements are all in Aubrey’s head, but White says that was never his intent. “I personally don’t like that trope in science fiction movies,” he said. “It can work but I feel it’s just been overdone. I was more interested in making something where, yes, it’s very literally there, but it is connected to what’s going on inside her head.”
One place where White intentionally ambiguous is the film’s ending, leaving it very much open to personal interpretation. “I don’t like traditional endings, where everything has to end in a big confrontation or a twist,” he said. “I just wanted to do something that felt emotionally right for the character.” Without giving too much away, it’s possible to interpret it as positive (a kind of ascension), as a downer (a metaphor for suicide), or something in between. Or perhaps it’s simply about acceptance, in keeping with the “seven stages of grief” theme.
White is a musician as well as a filmmaker, playing with the UK band Ghostlight. So he naturally composed the film’s haunting score and put together the various mixtapes. “When I come up with a character, I also create a playlist of the music they’d listen to so I can understand her better,” he said, although the music definitely reflects his own eclectic personal taste. He’s also not afraid of silence, even though it puts even more of the burden for making a scene work on the actors’ shoulders. Fortunately, Gardner is more than up to the task.
is currently screening in select cities. All profits will be donated to cancer research. It will be released on video on demand later this year.