It's only February but already there's many a Best Movies of 2016 list taking shape in heads and hearts with The Revenant, Room, Spotlight and The Big Short the stand-outs so far. Making a very strong case for inclusion in that exalted company is Northern Ireland's The Survivalist. It's a ferocious debut from Enniskillen writer-director Stephen Fingleton - so gritty that you might feel you have to wipe your feet after leaving the cinema.

Fingleton calls his film "post-event" rather than post-apocalyptic, but suffice to say Peak Oil and whatever else have had their way with civilisation and now only the most ruthless killers, stragglers and hermits remain. One of them - a man with no name (McCann) - lives on a woodland farm, sleeping with a shotgun and sensing danger every waking second. But when a mother and daughter (Fouéré and Goth) arrive at his door, you're not sure who should be most afraid of whom.

It's nearly 17 minutes in before a word is spoken in The Survivalist and throughout this three-hander of trust, trysts and treachery silence speaks volumes. Your allegiances shift throughout - one minute you're siding with someone on one side of the table, the next you're convinced that they'd take a life if it meant another bowl of soup. When push comes to shove would we be any better?

Fingleton proves himself quite the man for doing doomsday on a shoestring and taking his cast to some very dark places. McCann, Fouéré and Goth are all excellent, bringing out the best in each other as actors and the worst as characters - it would be fascinating to see them reprise these roles in a stage production, such is the intensity on screen. But while The Survivalist is powered by claustrophobia, there are also some moments of wonderful natural beauty, along with great nerve-shredding sequences of outdoors action that show how much Fingleton could bring to that genre. Here's hoping. 

The future's a lot brighter than it looks here.

Harry Guerin