Exodus tantalizes with the possibility of incisive critique, but ultimately paints a fairly empty picture.
Exodus, the debut feature by cinematographer-turned-director Logan Stone, is a peculiarly insular version of a standard post-apocalyptic thriller. Stone’s vision of America seven years after the Rapture is nearly indistinguishable from any number of decaying post-industrial towns that currently exist, complete with burned-out cars and a suitably somber color palette. In fact, the standard hallmarks of American culture — rugged individualism, a thriving prison system — seem to be all the more necessary for maintaining order in a world where most of the population has inexplicably vanished.
The film’s small cast of characters are preoccupied by the presence of a VHS tape that leads viewers to a mythical door to paradise. It’s unclear how much the characters know about what lies beyond the door; nor is it clear how life sustains itself for those left behind. Defectors are imprisoned and intimidated by a woman called “The Emissary” (Janelle Snow), who works for the same prison that employs Connor (Jimi Stanton). They forge an uneasy alliance when Connor finds the tape and leaves his ailing brother to search for the door.
At a slight 75 minutes, Stone raises far more questions than he’s interested in answering. He centers the film around a VHS tape and, to a lesser degree, a pager, making it unclear when the film takes place and what tools the remaining townspeople have at their disposal (beyond guns, which they seem to have in abundance). As Connor plunges further into the desert and meets other travelers, all searching for the door themselves, the film’s logic starts to unravel. Special effects are deployed to hint at the door’s significance without revealing anything about what it means or where it leads, leaving audiences as bewildered as the rest of the wanderers but with none of the same emotional investment.
It’s tempting to read the film as something of a capitalist critique, with the post-Rapture world representing a decrepit Rust Belt town blighted by unemployment and generational migration, and the door serving as an escape hatch towards gainful employment and a secure, comfortable future. Unfortunately, there’s no indication that Stone intended for such an interpretation — or any other, really. Ultimately, Exodus leaves audiences spinning in circles, grasping for meaning but unlikely to find anything of substance.
Published as part of Before We Vanish | March 2021.