A documentary filmmaker/reporter, Jodie Black, and her constantly bemused cameraman, Kevin Horner, accept an assignment to head into the Australian bush to film an exposé on a secretive doomsday cult, after meeting one of its rare escapees whilst filming at an addiction centre. Apparently this mysterious group believe in a prophecy and feel that it’s their duty to ensure the prophecy happens, no matter what.
The duo head off to find the sect, eventually being found themselves, whilst out in the woods, by two girls from the group. They are blind-folded and led to the sect’s humble, but hidden home. The cult are friendly at first and let the investigative duo interview them and follow them about their day-to-day lives, but it soon becomes apparent that all is not well in this homespun paradise and the reporters had better watch their own backs lest they end up taking centre-stage in the group’s own prophecy.
Regular readers of Blueprint: Review will know from my previous postings that I’m not a big fan of found-footage films, but I have to say this is one of the best I’ve come across, mainly because it tries to do something half-original with the format.
For a start, the two main characters are pretty normal, likeable people who, generally speaking, do the right thing throughout their adventure. And the cultists they meet are also quite pleasant – they’re not really evil, just delusional. Well, with the exception of their leader, Michael, (played really well here by David Macrae) who must be one of the creepiest characters to grace the cinema screen in a long while.
Although the film is found footage, because it is shot by supposed professionals, the footage is never too shaky and amateurish, which means you can actually make out what’s going on, at least for the most part. The sound is also reasonable, which is often a bugbear of mine with most found-footage movies displaying poor quality sound.
Apocalypse is a slow-builder, but rewards the viewer’s patience with a pay-off that is pretty distressing and, sadly, rather believable. From the moment that weirdo leader, Michael, indicates with a gesture that he can sleep with any of the women he so desires, on any particular day, including the many under-age girls in his camp, we know we’re moving into truly disturbing territory and that we can’t take anything for granted. And, as he reveals the nature of the prophecy (which is in three parts), we get a clear glimpse into the banality of evil.
The film often looks quite rustic and is often shrouded in fog, which adds an air of menace to the proceedings, in a Wicker Man kind of way. It also has a very realistic feel to it, and you could really believe that such a cult could be operating in today’s f**ked up world.
My only negative comments about the film would be that at times it felt a little too free-form in the acting department, which I think tended to slow the film down a little bit too much at times and that the investigators seem to have a never-ending supply of fully-charged batteries for their kit, seeing as there is no electricity there, which kind of took me out of the film as I pondered this. Plus there is a bit of wobbly-cam going on during the final act, although the circumstances make it understandable. Oh, and the final credits are way too slow, but I guess they needed to pad out the run-time somehow…
Overall, I enjoyed Apocalyptic and thought that it held up well against other members of this now all too prolific sub-genre of movie-making. It was also nice to hear some Aussie accents on a film for a change, instead of the usual American or British ones!
Apocalyptic has recently been released on DVD and is being distributed by Monster Pictures. Accompanying the film is a 36 minute ‘making of’ documentary, which is pretty interesting. The documentary shows audition footage, some rehearsals and there are lots of mini-interviews with many members of the rather up-for-it cast. We learn that the shoot was a cold one and catering was a problem since they didn’t have any gas. We also learn that the 80 page script was actually filmed in just three days, which is pretty amazing considering the number of scenes. The fake cameraman, Kevin, shot quite a bit of his own footage, for realism-sake, and there was quite a bit of ad-libbing, as I suspected. Apparently they filmed a number of possible endings, which are discussed here – it’s just a pity that the unused ones don’t make an appearance as extras on the disc.