@RJBayley drinks the kool-aid and reviews Apocalyptic…
Another day, another low budget Australian found footage film (FFF). Still, with the rate that country is producing them you’d hope they’d make at least one that comes up trumps at some point. Unfortunately Joel Anderson’s Lake Mungo (2008) was already the film that came up trumps, so director Glenn Triggs’ Apocalyptic falls into the other category: just a trump.
The story follows two documentary makers, Jodie Black (Jane Elizabeth Barry) and Kevin Horner (Geoff Pinfield) as they film and gain the trust of a cut off cult lead by Michael Godson (David Macrae). Obviously alarm bells begin to ring in our protagonists’ heads as they begin to realise that Godson intends to send his all-female followers to heaven using the well known Jonestown/Flavor Aid method.
While this all sounds very predictable (and it is) there are a few good elements that might drag you through to the end if you have absolutely nothing else to do. The first is Pinfield as Kevin who comes across as a really likeable guy. He’s very natural in the role and he’s genuinely fun to spend some time with, adding a much needed levity to this generally seedy and somber movie. It’s his relationship with the little girl Gray (Zoe Imms) that’s the only one that works in the film. As Jodie, Barry doesn’t deliver nearly the engagement the audience needs from her, likeable or otherwise. She’s wooden and inexpressive so spending time with her is a real chore. She also doesn’t possess either the charisma, magnetism or air of power for her to be believable as the head honcho in her dynamic with Kevin.
Macrae as the leader of the cult is the only other character that works. His south English accent is unusual and interesting here in this middle-of-nowhere Australian forest wilderness. He’s also very detached and serene, delivering a very good saintly performance. It’s not unsettling, the film doesn’t have the atmosphere for that unfortunately, but Macrae elevates the film when he’s in it. His character is genuinely unpleasant and when he calmly takes the 7 year old Gray to bed we get a nicely direct parallel and indictment of religion and how no matter what form it takes, it always seems to breed the same disgusting behaviour and people, and yet somehow internally makes this acceptable to itself.
No matter which way you cut them, death cults are always sinister and a horror-pleasure to see depicted. They’re ripe with symbolism, metaphor and just plain suicidal darkness. The concept of the death cult does a lot of heavy lifting for Apocalyptic when it comes to the creepiness and atmosphere and it’s a wise choice to have the movie based around one. It certainly makes the film unique compared to the tide of ghost, zombie and serial killer FFFs that never cease. The ending, which is pretty inevitable and obvious given that this is a horror film, is somewhat arresting, but arresting is all it is. It’s not terrifying or even scary, getting nowhere near the dizzying tornado of insanity that the height of the death cult genre, V/H/S/2’s segment Safe Haven (directed by Timo Tjahjanto and Gareth Huw Evans).
Unfortunately the film is entirely backloaded, with the only action of the film taking place around the final events. You have an awful lot of wading to do before you get to anything even tries to be scary. The film drags and drags and drags before getting anywhere that puts our characters in an even remotely threatening situation. So while this review has centred on some positive aspects, the film makes the fatal mistake of spending most of its running time being a properly tedious mega-bore. All we see is the protagonists watching unpleasant events unfolding before them, squabbling about whether or not they should stay or go, and generally being really passive about everything. Yes, a documentary crew is in most circumstances meant to just observe, but this is one of those head-thumpingly annoying times when consideration for reality has gotten in the way of making an entertaining story. This is a horror movie. We have come here to watch a story. We have not come here to watch people watch people. Documentarians wouldn’t interfere with their subject? So make them gonzo documentarians. Or don’t, it doesn’t matter, demons don’t really exist to possess little girls, but I don’t see anyone busting The Exorcist’s balls over its fidelity to reality. Apocalyptic could’ve been a really good short film, but with such laboured tedium taking up most of the time, the film kills itself well before any of its death cult do.
Images: IMDB & Kultguyskeep