Directed by: Tom Paton
Starring: Jade Hobday, Marc Zammit, Adam Bond
As a species there are few things we enjoy more than discussing our own demise. Holy books are full of it, art and literature thrives on such depictions, and the scientific community is always ready to weigh in with words of caution to stop us achieving our end. Clearly no one listened in Pandorica, a home-spun post-apocalyptic thriller that puts a tiny budget to great use even if the accompanying story brings nothing new to the table.
In this future world, an unspecified event wipes out civilisation as we currently know it. Opening images show lights blinking out across the globe. Only isolated communities survive, thrust back into a primitive way of life. Tom Paton’s directing and writing debut finds one such group, the Varosha tribe, in the midst of picking a new leader. Here everything switches into a survival thriller as three young hopefuls are led into the forest by the current leader for a night of trials. They perhaps didn’t expect to stumble across another tribe aggressively hunting the person who stole their holy item, but anything goes on leader-choosing night.The most impressive thing about this film shot on a £77,000 budget is it really doesn’t look like a film shot on a £77,000 budget. The camerawork is smooth and fluid, the editing sharp throughout. There are no attempts to throw in set-pieces that simply couldn’t be pulled off, the story keeping to the possible. Paton deserves praise for fostering a claustrophobic feel that isn’t broken at any stage.
Much less successful is his screenplay. Telegraphed and lacking in tension, it brings cut-out characters to the woods at night and leaves them to stand around hoping something interesting might happen soon. On a couple of occasions, for want of a better way to move things forward, an off-camera scream allows everyone to dash somewhere else. The dialogue, while not full of clunkers, hardly sets the world alight either. Functional line follows functional line until thankfully someone breaks off to have a quick scrap or stare with menace at a rival.Given the weaknesses in the screenplay, the characters are, unsurprisingly, a little on the dull side. The moment the three young hopefuls appear, it’s clear who will prevail. There’s the impetuous but tough and decent Eiren (Jade Hobday), weak and kindly Thade (Adam Bond), and Ares (Marc Zammit), an arrogant bully patently unfit for anything requiring responsibility. By the laws of their tribe, only the top three candidates are brought to the trial. Clearly it’s a weak year. Luke D’Silva’s existing leader Nus is also wandering around, failing to hide his own thoughts on succession and utterly useless when things go bad.
Every actor does their job, though apart from Hobday, and a brief turn from Laura Marie Howard as the holy icon thief, no one stands out. Thank God for Hobday then. While a little rough around the edges, she certainly has a moody fire about her, towering above the others to bring necessary steel to Eiren. Even if we know which way everything’s heading, she at least makes things a little interesting.
There’s not enough in the story to keep Pandorica engaging for long, the narrative soon settling into a dull cycle of action and lull, but it’s technically impressive. Paton’s work behind the camera and Hobday’s in front suggest bright futures for both of them.