Have you ever looked up at the sky and wondered what’s out there? The central couple in co-writers/co-directors Alex Huston Fischer and Eleanor Wilson’s side-splitting sci-fi comedy Save Yourselves! look up only when they lose their cellphone signal. They’ve grown so disconnected from reality that they decide to unplug and rediscover each other at a friend’s cabin deep in the woods. That’s when aliens attack, of course. In a miserable year filled with grim cinematic fare, this eminently re-watchable science-fiction comedy provides a much-needed spark of lighthearted exultation.
The couple in question is Jack (John Reynolds) and Su (Sunita Mani), who spend most of their time online. Even after escaping from the cacophonous craziness of Brooklyn into the serenity of upstate New York, they experience social media withdrawal; their cellphones are within reach, just in case. However, Jack and Su are resolved to honor their pact and stay clear of pixels, basking instead in nature’s splendor: they take a boat out on a pond, sit by a fire, and Jack even contemplates building rabbit traps. All the while, Su forcefully tries to get her boyfriend to dig deep into their relationship, while he stubbornly skirts the subject.
And then they discover a pouf – yes, that pointless piece of furniture – which neither of them recollects seeing before. When the pouf reveals the capability to appear in different parts of the house, Su and Jack begin to suspect something’s terribly awry. Cellphones are promptly turned on, burying our heroes in an avalanche of apocalyptic news: cities collapsing, entire nations being eradicated, and at the center of it all are these seemingly harmless extraterrestrial poufs.
Only they’re not harmless at all. It would be a disservice to the viewer to reveal the poufs’ preferred method of killing, but I will say it’s instant and gory. Oh, and the lil’ fuc*ers have a predilection for ethanol. The panicking couple now has to figure out a way out of the cabin, out of the woods, and perhaps out of this world.
“The panicking couple now has to figure out a way out of the cabin, out of the woods, and perhaps out of this world.”
Save Yourselves! nails the dynamic of a contemporary twenty-something couple. (My favorite line: “Our lives are meaningless if you think about it. But only if you think about it.”) This is largely thanks to the sizzling chemistry (not the sexual kind) between the two leads, who represent the couple we all either know, or ourselves resemble: neurotic, insecure, self-aware, and sensitive. John Reynolds, best known for his hapless Drew in Search Party (side-note: the show’s brilliant John Early also makes an all-too-brief appearance), possesses impeccable timing. His dry line delivery has an undertone of detachment to it that emphasizes each joke. Sunita Mari, best known for Glow, showcases her comedic talents here, dishin’ it out and takin’ it with amusing fervor.
Fischer and Wilson make the most of their tiny budget. They’ve clearly had fun stringing together sequences, peppering the film with hysterical moments, playing with the viewer’s expectations. Su is so used to Jack’s thunderous night terrors, which only occur when he drinks too much, that when he actually sees something horrific, she shushes him in sleepy exasperation. The cute lil’ poufs’ horrific executions are glimpsed briefly and rarely and are consequently much more effective/funny/frightening. The film’s most inspired scene – its undeniable highlight – sees our heroes tripping balls on alien gunk while a baby gradually crawls away from them into the treacherous woods.
Save Yourselves! ends things on an ambiguous, unfinished note that’s bound to infuriate some. The abruptness may result from budgetary constraints, or Fischer and Wilson writing themselves into a corner – or perhaps it was intentional. Perhaps, what they’re saying is, “Salvation lies in our rediscovery of ourselves, our identities, our sensibilities, and (com)passion. Now, go save yourselves before it’s too late.”
"…clearly had fun...playing with the viewer's expectations."