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Come for the killer creature design and stay for the emotionally devastating beauty of the apocalyptic indie “Walking Against the Rain”.

Writer-director Scott Lyus readily admits his feature film debut, the slow-burning, apocalyptic monster movie Walking Against the Rain, won’t be for everyone.

There’s a lot to love about the film’s unique blend of character-driven drama and chilling creature feature ferocity. But it requires patience and the willingness to invest emotionally in a tale more concerned with human trauma than overt horror.

The film opens with a few lines of simple white text against a black background. I was sure this ominous text — about a great rain and vengeful beasts rising up to punish those that have depraved and decayed the world — was ripped right out of Revelations. But instead, it’s a cleverly crafted invention of Lyus’ imagination.

The brief intro text, suggesting some population-ending biblical plague, is all we get in the way of backstory. Instead, we are thrown into the post-apocalyptic — or at least mid-apocalyptic — devastation. Most of the population has been decimated, but the idyllic countryside landscape remains pristine, unscorched earth.

Of the people who remain, many are religious zealots, morbidly drunk on the idea of apocalyptic doom and the promise of end times as a punishment for man’s sins.

Others have become dangerous, dehumanized scavengers so desperate for food that they won’t hesitate to take what they want by force.

Blair (Sophie Eleni) is one of the rare survivors who has maintained her humanity and hope.

After the death of her mother, she leads a lonely but peaceful and self-sufficient life in a yurt — a structure somewhere between a tent and a prefab cabin.

Then one day, quite unexpectedly, a strange voice comes through on her radio communication device (walkie-talkie).

We cut to a young man, Tommy (Reece Douglas), desperately running for his life from an unseen entity. We hear monstrous growling in the distance but don’t yet know what’s chasing him.

He makes his way to the hayloft of an old barn, where he reaches out in sheer terror to anyone who might be listening, begging for help.

To his surprise and great fortune, Blair is on the other line, offering a sense of calm and comfort. When Tommy is attacked by a horrifying creature resembling a xenomorph from Alien, he barely escapes with his life.

Blair strikes up a conversation with him, overjoyed to have found another human she can connect with in a world filled with “crazies and creatures”.

Tommy tells her he’s making a trek to a cabin where he spent his childhood vacations.

She immediately offers to join him, insisting they will be much stronger, safer, and happier as a pair rather than as isolated individuals.

With battery-operated radios that won’t hold a charge for long, she suggests they check in at three designated times throughout the day — a brief but essential touchstone as they both make the long journey on foot across the barren landscape to Tommy’s cabin.

As the weary and traumatized Tommy makes his way toward their destination, he is somber and trepidatious.

Meanwhile, Blair is full of unbridled joy, gleefully dancing along the road as she heads out, emphasizing the fundamental differences between the two in attitude and outlook.

Along the way, they start to reveal some of their tragic backstories during their scheduled check-ins, slowly becoming more and more dependent on the stranger-turned-lifeline on the other end of the radio.

As they journey separately through much of the film, each of them faces increasingly dangerous threats, both human and alien.

The human encounters are effectively menacing, but the real nightmarish horror comes via the outstanding practical creature work.

Not only do the imposing creatures designed by Dan Martin (The Girl on the Third Floor, Possessor, Censor) look absolutely terrifying — brought to life by talented suit actor James Swanton (Host, Dashcam) —but their evolving intelligence and adaptation make them an increasingly formidable threat.

But make no mistake; while the creature effects are fantastic, this film is essentially a character-driven tale of loss, trauma, and the light of humanity in the face of tremendous darkness.

Punctuated by long conversational scenes, the film is meandering, melancholic, and emotional. It’s far from your typical end-times horror film where conflict and carnage take center stage.

It’s at once bleak and hopeful, devastating and heartening.

There’s a powerful scene where Blair meets a kindly old farmer (Johnny Vivash), who rescues her from the clutches of a creature and offers her food and shelter. It beautifully highlights the resiliency of the human spirit and our ability to retain compassion and empathy despite unspeakable grief and suffering.

At the same time, it’s absolutely gut-wrenching and emphasizes the enormity of the loss and pain shared by the broken survivors.

The moody tone is aided by the haunting and emotionally stirring score from Mitch Bain.

Shot in a wide frame with stunning anamorphic lenses, the dread and monstrosity of the human plight are contrasted with the breathtaking natural beauty of the UK landscapes — vast, desolate, and eerily serene.

The performances are riveting, especially Eleni’s unshakably optimistic Blair.

The final moments are jaw-dropping. Lyus doesn’t fail to deliver the goods for those tuning in for a glorious monster movie spectacle. But what really elevates this film above the apocalyptic clutter is its strong beating heart, compelling characters, and heart-wrenching exploration of what makes us human — for better or worse.

WALKING AGAINST THE RAIN is a revelation, an exceedingly worthy cinematic journey. Click To Tweet
Overall Rating (Out of 5 Butterflies): 4

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