As the movie starts, a teenage girl finds herself trapped in a room lined with rotary phones. One phone is black and has a note on it. The phones begin to ring, one after another. The room begins to flood. Can she survive?
It turns out that this is a virtual reality experience, and that young Reese (played by Brighton Sharbino, from Walking Dead) is smart, spunky and resourceful. These will turn out to be useful qualities, as when she goes home from the gaming center to have dinner with her widowed father (Dominic Monaghan, Merry from Lord of the Rings), the U.S. West Coast is hit with a radioflash – an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) that knocks out the power grid.
Reese thinks to jury-rig a battery to power the old communications gear her grandfather (Will Patton, Armageddon) left in the garage. She is able to contact her grandfather, who urges her and her father to immediately join him in his survival camp in the wilderness before it's too late.
Thus begins a survival movie, as Reese and her father stock up and drive off to find refuge with grandfather. Along the way, there are shortages, people behaving badly, some beautiful scenery, robbers, a large bear, and… hillbillies!
Surprisingly, there's not much of a sci-fi element in this movie. The EMP event is never explained, and we don't see much of what happens in the urban centers as civilization collapses.
So the movie is more about survival against nature, bad guys, animals, and accidents. Bad things happen to good people. Crazy people do bad things.
One disappointment is that the movie sets us up to expect Reese to figure things out, as she did in the virtual reality (the best scene in the movie). The actress does a fine job with the action scenes and being spunky. Yet the script leaves her passive at critical moments, and she's rescued by men – twice!
The movie is trying to make the point that when you go into the backwoods, you don't know who you'll run into. Hence, the hillbillies subplot. I didn't think that fit in with the rest of the movie, but the actors portraying the hillbilly clan did a wonderful job (Fionnula Flanagan plays Maw, you might remember her as Data's 'mother').
Another theme in the movie involves Reese coming to terms with her mother's unexpected death, and repeatedly seeing a phantom. Meanwhile, her family is urging her to revere nature. It felt a bit preachy to me.
No graphic violence, no swearing that I recall, no sex or nudity.
The movie's not bad. Some drama, some pretty scenery. I was hoping for more sci-fi content, but it was fun.