Raindance Review: Survival Skills

There’s no genre of film quite like horror when it comes to obsessive fans. There’s equally nothing quite like their love for all things retro in any other sphere of filmmaking. The humble video cassette, for instance, is on a par with vinyl amongst collectors. There’s a nostalgia for those cheap straight to video films of the 1980s. So much so, that some directors try to mimic their look and ‘feel’. This is the case in Quinn Armstrong’s new film, Survival Skills.

Survival Skills is a lost police training video from 1988. In it we’re introduced to Jim (Vayu O’Donnell), or Officer Williams to you, as he embarks on a career with the police department. We follow the rookie as he learns a number of lessons about how to become a valuable and worthwhile law enforcement officer. Jim finds out the hard way not to get personally involved when investigating a domestic violence case.

Survival Skills works because of the amount of love and care which has gone into its creation. There are so many knowing nods and fun asides aimed at the conservative right of the period. Whilst Armstrong harks back to a certain era, there are echoes of today’s hyper-sensitised and acerbically intolerant society. Narrated by an increasingly frustrated Stacy Keach, Survival Skills is darkly comedic but makes a very serious social statement in an entertaining and inventive way.

Survival Skills screens at Raindance between 28 October and 7 November.

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