The new Australian drama These Final Hours promises the ultimate downer ending – the extinction of all life on Earth. But it’s what happens before then that is important, explains writer and director Zak Hilditch. Given the incredible amount of noise around These Final Hours, a lot of people are going to be hearing Hilditch’s name for the first time. But the hotly anticipated apocalyptic thriller is not his first feature film; it is, in fact, his fifth.
“I did three what I would call backyard features, which were a lot of fun,” he says. “Getting together a team of like-minded friends from Curtin University, where I studied. After uni, you know how it is; we were like, ‘What the hell are we going to do now?’You just get as many of those passionate people together who all want to keep making films. You don’t really know what you’re doing, but you just want to keep making stuff. So we ended up making three of those over a seven-year time span while I was also having a crack at shorts – some funded, some unfunded – and just developing the shit out of a lot of projects. And a lot of them would fall over but this one sort of withstood the fire and brimstone of development.”
Perhaps that’s because it deals with some pretty bedrock themes that all of us have pondered at one time or another. These Final Hours follows James (Nathan Phillips) as he resolves to reunite a young girl, Rose (Angourie Rice) with her father on the day the world is scheduled to end. Hilditch says film was inspired by, “My own mortality and our own mortality – the sort of thing that keeps a lot of people up at night. I am very fixated on it and there’s definitely something in there about, ‘What would you do if you knew you were gonna die?’ At the same time there was this idea about these natural disasters that just sort of take people by surprise and then they’re gone – they didn’t have time to prepare and they didn’t see it coming. Well, what if you spun that on its head and you could see it coming but you still couldn’t stop it? It gives you time to prepare and it really breaks things down to the questions: What would you do? Where do you belong? Who do you really love? All those really primal questions. That’s where it all tied in together.”
Hilditch was also adamant that the film be set in his hometown, Perth. “Being born and bred here I always wanted to set the film here. I didn’t want to set it in Nowheresville or Everytown. I wanted to set it specifically in Perth and to show Perth in a way that people who live here have probably never seen their city before, especially on the big screen. This isn’t New York, this isn’t LA – this is Perth that this is happening to. I think that was incredibly interesting.”
He also dismisses the possibility that These Final Hours is another entry in the seemingly endless cycle of downbeat, self-serious Australian films (see The Rover, Mystery Road, Somersault, Snowtown, et cetera). “At the end of the day, this film could seem like the bleakest film a human being could make – it’s about everyone dying. But at the same time, James’ journey with Rose and doing the right thing and realising that it’s never too late to find redemption, even in the face of the apocalypse… to make a film about the apocalypse you have to go to some pretty dark places, but that, to me, is balanced out by their journey through the film because he does manage to right his wrongs – all with the ultimate ticking clock.”
These Final Hours (dir. Zak Hilditch) is in cinemas now.