Producers: Robert Ogden Barnum and Eric Binns   Director: Alec Tibaldi   Screenplay: Alec Tibaldi   Cast: Ashley Judd, Katie Douglas, Sarah Pidgeon, Asher Angel, Edward Balaban, Kyla Brown, Eddie Wollrabe, Harley Reed, Christine Uhebe, Paulina Patino and Sophia Baaden   Distributor: Vertical

Grade: C

The recent pandemic experience has led to a run of modest film about small groups of people—usually families—that isolate themselves from the wider society in remote places.  This is the latest, which in many respects mirrors the recent Nicolas Cage vehicle “Arcadian,” except that the major characters are women, and they’re menaced not by mutated monsters but by a band of human troublemakers. 

A brief prologue set on the outskirts of Seattle is narrated by Ashley Judd’s Lee, who explains that a virulent virus has struck and escapes with her orphaned nieces Imogen (Paulina Patino) and Maeve (Sophia Baaden) to a rustic house she calls Lazareth, a name presumably designed to suggest rebirth.  Her severity in protecting them there is evinced when she shoots a passing traveler (Christine Uhebe) begging for food when she observes that the woman is infected.

The major portion of the narrative is set ten years later. Imogen (Katie Douglas) and her elder sister Maeve (Sarah Pidgeon) hike in the surrounding woods while Lee drives into town, wearing a hazmat suit, to secure supplies; they ritually hose her down with water when she returns.  On their most recent ramble they spy a young man named Owen (Asher Angel) who, we’re shown, has run away from a gang in town.  Maeve considers him dangerous, but Imogen, infatuated with the first man she’s ever encountered, hides the injured boy in the cellar, and eventually persuades Lee to accept him in their home, citing his mechanical ability as an argument in his favor.

But his gang are not ready to allow Owen to leave their ranks, and they visit Lazareth one night.  The women and Owen hide as the leader Morian (Edward Balaban) and his girl Jay (Kyla Brown) go through the place, carrying off items they fancy like a delicate music box.  Maeve retrieves it when Lee finally allows her to accompany her on one of her visits to the town, which reveals that Lee hasn’t been entirely honest about the situation in the outside world.  Lee admits that things have returned to a kind of grubby normacy, but insists that the virus reemerges periodically and they must remain vigilant.

A climax comes when Morian, Jay and his men (Eddie Wollrabe and Harley Reed) return on their motorcycles for another visit.  A violent melee results, with a bloody outcome that affects life at Lazareth without ending it.

This is a somber, gloomy tale of a post-apocalyptic world, told in morose style by writer-director Alec Tibaldi and shot in dark tones on Oregon locations by cinematographer Martim Vian.  The production design by Sean Roney and costumes by Erin Orr are suitably dingy, while Joel Griffen’s editing can be described charitably as unhurried, or less so as lethargic; he, Tibaldi and Vian conspire to make the closing confrontation with the villains a visually incoherent jumble.   A spare score ascribed to a group called IDEM ends during closing credits with a choral piece intended, one presumes, to add a celestial glow to what’s actually a grimly mundane piece, though Lee describes their home as a sort of sacred place.

Judd shows her customarily steeliness and resolve without bringing much nuance to Lee, and both Douglas and Pidgeon give committed performances in roles that feel essentially underwritten.  The same can be said of Asher; Owen’s motivations remain obscure throughout, though he’s obviously seeking a new start.

“Lazareth” isn’t awful, but it is a rather tedious, unimaginative slog through what is, by now, very familiar territory.