What would become of American society if the power were to go out permanently nationwide? Odds are we’d be looking at a fairly apocalyptic scenario—something like The Stand, perhaps, except with most people killed by a battle for dwindling resources rather than by a superflu. The new drama Into The Forest, however, uses this dystopian premise to fashion a comparatively small-scale nightmare, observing how the end of electricity affects two adult sisters living in an isolated rural house. It’s a risky approach to such grave material, requiring characters vivid and dynamic enough to serve as a compelling microcosm; viewers not fully engaged by what’s happening on screen are sure to be constantly distracted by thoughts of the meltdown that must be happening off screen. The risk doesn’t pay off here, alas. Indeed, there are stretches of Into The Forest during which one could momentarily forget that it’s a survivalist tale at all… or even that it’s taking place in the middle of nowhere, for that matter. The essential becomes irrelevant.
Right off the bat, it’s unclear why this movie is set in the near future. Some expense has gone into designing nifty electronic gadgets that don’t yet exist (briefly seen before the lights go out), but not only could the story that follows take place today, there would also be no difference whatsoever if it did. Still, Nell (Ellen Page) and Eva (Evan Rachel Wood), along with their father (Callum Keith Rennie), have all the modern conveniences and are initially quite put out when they experience what seems to be an ordinary outage. Rumors of terrorism fly in town, however, as people quickly strip the markets bare, and a tragic accident soon leaves Nell and Eva on their own, as days, then weeks, then months pass with no power. After having lived on the edge of nature while remaining very much apart from it, the women must learn to hunt their food and come to terms with the possibility that life as they’d known it may be over. They also soon find that they have to protect themselves from predators—in both animal and human form.