As more people are seeing that those damn survivalists were perhaps not wrong about everything, more attention is devoted to them in the general media. While most of that fiction is not great at all, some works really try to have something to say. For instance, "Take Shelter". ( http://www.imdb.fr/title/tt1675192/ )
This is a movie that is clearly stemming from someone's personal experience, as it accurately describes the first stages of survivalism as experienced by newcomers.
It is a movie with premonitions and twist endings/moments, so it cannot be talked upon without referring to that. Just like it's nearly impossible to talk about "The Sixth Sense", once you've seen it, without spoiling it.
That being said, there is only suspence for those who aren't in survivalism. For survivalists, the fact of the hero being right or delusional is irrelevant.
OK, SO there are ONLY SPOILERS from now on.
We follow a character named Curtis LaFourche, played by Michael Shannon, who is reminiscent of Christopher Walken in his performance. Curtis is not a big talker, he has a wife and a young girl (approx. 5-6 years old). They belong to the working class in a small town in Ohio.
Curtis has very vivid dreams about a tornado threatening his home and his family, and this leads him to get prepared for it. This is one of several points where the movie does not want to confront itself with the more disturbing aspects of survivalism. Curtis' actions are not motivated by politics or economy, but by a dream, and a general sense of doom (and impressive sleeping disorders as well...). Now this is somewhat fortunate, because the storm becomes a metaphor for anything "SHTF", and we don't get caught by the technicalities. The movie focuses on Curtis' situation and choices.
His own mother having had schizophrenia, and being treated for it, Curtis is as cautious about a potential mental disorder as he is about his preps. A lot of people who have barely passed the door to survivalism may also ask themselves if they're not overreacting, or not having some condition (depression, paranoia...), when they're witnessing all the nonsensical stuff that revolves around survivalism, which is full of apocalyptical visions and general wackiness.
As more dreams occur, for instance his daughter and him being attacked while being in a car, or Curtis being bitten by his own dog, Curtis takes precautions (buys some extra food, for instance), and reorders some of his world slightly. No big fuss, but this starts to startle his wife, to whom he also becomes more directive. My view : Curtis is not kidding about his security, and will not let it jeopardize by discussions , compromise and other home economics/politics.
Then Curtis falls into the Big Trap of starters, which is overdoing things. He already has an old, small storm shelter in his backyard (from previous owners, probably), but decides to dig up a hole next to it, to put a ship container (!) and thus expand the living space. This costs him north of 6800 dollars, and he borrows company equimpent without telling his boss to do so. He takes his best buddy, also his work buddy, to help him.
Then he dreams about this buddy hurting him, and overreacts. He wants the buddy to be reassigned to another team, the buddy tells everything to the boss, who then fires Curtis. The buddy gets fired too (which is also good bonus lesson).
At first, Curtis' choice of doing things the way he did is not optimal. Of course, there's an easy explanation : he did rush things, didn't have the money to rent the equipment etc.
But there is another clue, and it's the center of the movie. Curtis is all alone on this. Nobody, not one single person is going to be of any help to him whatsoever. His wife is dreaming of a holiday by the sea, his father-in-law is a domineering idiot, his brother is patronizing him, his buddy turns against him and tells the whole social club (100+ people) about what he's doing (& provokes him in front of everybody), shrinks are clueless etc.
During the movie, Curtis becomes increasingly paranoid, but the introverted way. He's not aggressive, but he takes it upon himself, and continues stubbornly. Buys horribly expansive gas masks. Anybody in the survivalist world knows he's been horribly ripped off, but this could be a good metaphor of the whole profiteering business that grows around freaked out survivalists, with certain bloggers more than happy to oblige - after all, there's money to be made here.
As the movie draws to an end, as with every "omen" movie there has to be a confirmation of the omen. Here, the alarm sirens roars, a bad storm is approaching. Curtis can bring his family into the shelter, though. At this point the survivalist viewer can say "See ? It made sense to do everything he did." The setting of the shelter is extremely bare, there aren't spare clothes for instance (they're all in their pyjamas). The place looks cold and unfamiliar, like a cave.
At that stage, Curtis is stricken by terror of what is outside. His wife makes the whole Oprah stance "you have to open the doors of the shelter by yourself, this is something that you'll have to do", as if it was a first step towards recovery. My take on this : recovery from what ? His condition just saved your life and your child's life as well, just how is that a bad thing ? Is it because the danger is gone now ? it is because the shelter is finished, and you can take it for granted ? I guess it's all that "feminine selective memory" thing (or the "always be on top" thing).
And as the shelter's doors are opened , men in the audience and survivalists even more so hope to see utter devastation. But no, just a few branches that the storm took away from trees, the rest is undamaged.
Thus, Curtis accepts to go to a shrink, who convinces him to take a treatment AND to be hospitalized for a while.
In the final scene, which is the key scene that can be interpreted in several ways, the family is at Myrtle Beach (SC), and then the storm Curtis was dreaming about (with oily rain drops) is coming towards them, with two tornado hoses visible. Curtis looks to his wife, who nods in approval.
Now that scene can be interpreted in several ways.
First interpretation : it is one of Curtis' dreams. The way it is filmed is like the other dream sequences, but then again those started quite realistically as well. This interpreation means he's trapped in his madness forever. Another clue for this version is that they would not have been able to afford the vacation in the first place.
Second interpretation : this is what he prepared against, but he's away from home now. It might kill them all (who knows - you can't tell from the scene) and thus it was all Inescapabale Fate.
Third interpretation (it is a bit less solid) : By having gone so extreme, he's in this situation now where he had to go to the beach instead of having stayed at home. He missed the Test givent to him by the Almighty because he overreacted.
My interpretation : Shit does happen, and who cares if it happened to you or to somebody else. His premonitions did come true and he was right to worry and to act, even imperfectly.
End of the movie.
This kind of movie is focusing on the individual instead of the underlying technical / statistical aspects. But this is acceptable because most people don't care about economics, politics or fallout but do get interested by relations between people. (It's the old LEGO vs PLAYMOBIL divide).
Many survivalists have seen the Twilight Zone episode "The Shelter" where friendly neighbours try to break in one' shelter as the sirens roar. Here, I would have expected the Curtis' social environment to be somewhat jealous of his preps, or sneaky, but instead they never seem to understand what he's doing. One critic I read on the internet says it's a "Noah's Ark" kind of story. Indeed it's incredible that nobody in the movie questions the whole reason behind Curtis' actions. To everybody, he's just losing it. And, because he's isolated, that's how he thinks about himself, too. After all, he is using the same reasoning patterns as his environment does.
I believe that for the majority of serious survivalists (NOT yuppie survivalists), there is a tremendous internal force that drives them to act. They just know. And they also happened to have lived through serious shit at least once in their lifetime. (Here, it's the mother's schizophrenia that represents this kind of trauma). So the movie would be about the mysteriousness of this internal force in the eyes of those who cannot understand it, and the interaction between the two points of view.
From a survivalist perspective, I identified easily with Curtis. I had the same sense of overblown expenses, that stems from a lack of practical knowledge (well shown at one point in the movie). Curtis doesn't use the internet , but goes to the public library and looks for books on mental illness. His research strategy is not adapted either, as are his sources of knowledge (small rural library).
This movie had to leave practical aspects out, for the sake of the message. There is never any mention of firearms (although two moments in the picture could have led to it - the abduction dream and the entrance in the surplus shop), and there is no survivalist subculture, from internet or otherwise. Also, "SHTF" is a powerful storm, but nothing political, societal, economic or technological. It's a "clean" SHTF scenario (not "DEAD ZONE" with Christopher Walken, which is an evident reference for this movie).
From the perspective of the frugal survivalist, the movie pinpoints the trappings of uncontrolled spending (consumer culture) and lack of factual research. Actually, he could have made it just fine with what he already had and the few things he did in the beggining (more food, remove the dog's unpredictability issue etc.), if his only concern was a tornado.
The message of the movie is that you'll be completely on you own, even and especially within your own people. You will have to do the right thing while everybody will oppose you. They will oppose you because they want what they believe is best for you, and they will not listen to you.