Quiet Earth (1985 film)

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Scene from Quiet Earth (1985 film)...


"On July 5th, everyone on Earth disappeared....." A scientist awakens to find himself alone in the world. In a desperate attempt to search for others, he finds only two survivors, who have their own agendas....


  • Release Date: 1985
  • Country/Language: English, New Zealand
  • Genres/Technical: Science Fiction, Mystery, Drama
  • Setting: 1980s post-apocalyptic New Zealand (Cthulhu End Times?)
  • Runtime: 1 hr 31 min
  • Starring: Bruno Lawrence, Alison Routledge, Pete Smith
  • Director: Geoff Murphy
  • Writer: Craig Harrison (novel), Bill Baer and Bruno Lawrence and Sam Pillsbury (written by)
  • Producer/Production Co: Cinepro, Pilsbury Productions, Mr. Yellowbeard Productions Limited & Company
  • View Trailer: (link)
  • TVTropes: (link)
  • IMDB Page: (link)


MPAA Ratings

  • Rated: R (full frontal Nudity, some Adult Content and Sexual Situations, very little Violence and almost not Profanity)

Tentacle Ratings

A rough measure of how "Lovecraftian" the work is:

  • S____ (One Tentacle: Debateably Lovecraftian; has almost no direct connection to Lovecraft's work)

The film sometimes achieves some dreamy, surreal weirdness without ever going in any deliberately Lovecraftian direction; the basic premise can still play out as a workable apocalyptic role-playing drama, with the right group, by playing with a "what would you do if you were one of the last people on Earth after a weird apocalypse" premise involving deteriorating sanity; the mystery elements of determining what caused the apocalypse and what is causing the weird visions and experiences afterward and how to stop things from getting worse might require some dedicated work to build into a coherent scenario by a dedicated scenario writer.

Note: This rating is not intended as a measure of quality, merely of how closely related to Lovecraftian "Weird" fiction the work is.


Review Links:

  • Review by Walter Goodman at The New York Times, (link) - "...easy to watch most of the time and never positively painful... Why have these three survived? The explanation makes as much sense as anything else about [the cause of the disaster].... Credit for the pleasures of The Quiet Earth goes to the director..., his editor..., and his cameraman... they keep the movie zipping along with snappy surprises, odd angles, crisp cuts and other foolery that should keep you from worrying about what's happened to the world."
  • Tom Huddleston at Not Coming to a Theater Near You, (link) - "....Produces more than its fair share of such haunting images.... The final third of the film is by far the least convincing, as the sci-fi nature of the plot begins to take over, and one too many easy coincidences undermine the claustrophobic atmosphere... [and] the filmmakers seem to presume that the audience will be satisfied when Joanne ends up with grim-faced Api, but they've sorely underestimated the likeability of Lawrence's performance as Zac. In the end, we feel cheated for him, especially when he sacrifices his life to save the others... it's [actor] Bruno Lawrence [as the scientist Zac Hobson] who is the real hero here — his performance holds the film together, as he lurches from ordinariness to ferocious insanity without missing a beat...."
  • Richard Scheib at The Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy Film Review, (3.5/5 Stars) (link) - "The Quiet Earth is at its most effective in conveying the barrenness of humanity's absence.... Of course, that brings one to the ending. What exactly happens or what it means is entirely baffling.... The Quiet Earth smacks of an ending that leaves a mystifyingly blank titillation, something that has been randomly dreamed up, borne out of a not knowing how finish the film than anything else. It certainly leaves all audiences confused."
  • Video Review by The Lucid Nightmare, (link) - "What really shines in this movie though is the overpowering atmosphere that director Geoffrey Murphy is able to inject into this unique gem of a flick."

Synopsis (SPOILERS)

 Spoiler Section (Highlight to Read)

A U.S. military project to provide a network for powering aircraft goes wrong, causing the entire living population of the planet to apparently disappear, except for a very small number of survivors. The first part of the film follows a scientist involved in the project as he awakens the next morning to discover that he appears to be the only survivor in the city and possibly the world, followed by his descent into loneliness and temporary madness. After his recovery, he explores the city and discovers a woman; the two become closer and closer, until they discover another man, complicating the relationship. Some strange visions of weird flashes of light, strange behavior of electromagnetic energy, and other strange events and conditions reveal that the laws of physics have subtly been altered, and are continuing to change, suggesting that the survivors have been shifted into a parallel universe, and are about to shift there again, and, worse yet, by comparing their stories, the survivors begin to realize that they somehow survived the last apocalypse by dying at the moment the shift occurred, and will have to temporarily die again if they are to survive the next shift. A desperate attempt to stop the next shift from occurring ends in failure, killing the scientist, only for him to awaken after the next shift, to find that Earth has shifted into an even more alien parallel universe when he sees a strange landscape of strange cloud formations over the ocean, with an alien ringed moon or planet rising in the background beyond....


Comments, Trivia, Dedication

  • The story was supposedly based on the real experience of a U.S. tourist to New Zealand, who described a habit of the locals of taking the day off and sleeping late on weekends, leaving the city seemingly deserted and the tourist feeling as if he were the last man on Earth.
  • "The Effect" referred to in the film is defined in the story as being a distortion of the space-time fabric manifesting as a time loop that begins and ends at 6:12; it is a result of the military Project Flashlight experiment, and the strange experiences are hallucinations caused by the distortions. The film's plot bears little resemblance to the book. There was actually a real "Operation Flashlight" by the U.S. military, but it actually involved the explosion of low-yield atomic blasts capable of destroying only a small room-sized area. The time that all clocks stopped due to 'The Effect' was 6.12 am in the morning, apparently a reference to the Bible's Revelations 6:12 - "And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood...."
  • The film begins with a sunrise, and ends with the rise of the bizarre, ringed planet.

Associated Mythos Elements

Keeper Notes