It is a tranquil summer morning in New Zealand when Zac Hobson (Bruno Lawrence) wakes to the start of a new day. Things are quiet as Zac begins his morning ritual—a bit too quiet. And as he ventures out into the world, he makes the startling discovery that there is no one else, anywhere. As he scours the city and surrounding countryside, but there is not a trace of another human being. Cars are abandoned at the side of the road. In the heart of the city lies the burning wreck of an airplane, fallen from the sky, but without a single body to be found. As near as he can tell, Zac Hobson is the last man on the planet.
Drawing inspiration from a wealth of sources, most notably Richard Matheson's classic novel I Am Legend, 1959's seldom-seen The World, the Flesh and the Devil, and George Romero's Dawn of the Dead, The Quiet Earth remains one of the best, most underrated science fiction films of the 1980s. In what starts out as a one-man show, Lawrence gives an amazing performance as the last man on Earth. A scientist working on a top-secret project, Zac quickly realizes that he is partially responsible for whatever has caused all the other people on the planet to disappear, which only helps to fuel his descent into madness. But things become more complicated when Zac discovers other survivors.
The Quiet Earth was one of the last of the great, post-apocalyptic cautionary tales to come out during the Cold War. More cerebral than most of its contemporaries, the film came out in 1985, just a few years before the fall of communism in Eastern Europe. But with its recent release on DVD two decades later, it remains just as compelling as when it first came out. If anything, the film is even more relevant in these uncertain times.