Reviewbr> "I'm scared for everybody involved I can't see anything good coming from this" - Presley
Jody Black and Kevin Homer are documentary film makers who have been invited to film a Drug and Alcohol rehabilitation meeting. During the meeting they meet Presley, a druggie who has been away for a while with a secretive cult. The Bytherainians, a cult comprising a number of women and children lead by Michael Godson, have a compound deep in the Aussie bush and shun contact with the modern world, though it appears they are in communication with at least a few outsiders. Naturally Jody and Kevin are intrigued and set out to make a movie on the cult.
Our intrepid duo head off to small town Australia where they interview a number of locals, none of which have heard of the cult little lone know where it might be based. However the film makers perseverance is paid off with a late night phone call instructing them where to find the Cult, they head into the Oz bush to hook up with the mysterious sect. The warning bells should have been ringing, Michael Godson believes he is the embodiment of God, and where are all the men? Jody and Kevin are about to run head long into a Doomsday cult that believes the end of times has arrived, can they escape the isolated compound and should they interfere in the Cult's unorthodox practices?
Our approach in 2014 is to take things up a notch and see if we can't find simply the best movies in each of the genres we cover. While we may not achieve that, it promises to be something of an epic quest. Unfortunately when it comes to found footage the search has been less than epic, I've found simply the best ever found footage movie ever made with Apocalyptic and am stating right here and right now the search is over baby, or at least it's over for this sub-genre. Director/Writer Glenn Trigs has taken the found footage format and squeezed every nuance he can out of it while constructing what is for all intents and purposes a pretty orthodox dark genre flick. This one is solid, doesn't fall into the normal found footage problems, and actually builds a butt load of tension via the use of light, atmosphere, and plot foreshadowing. And the good thing, it could really happen, and has happened. Apocalyptic works because it operates in reality without relying on the standard bag of tricks that has crept into found footage over the years.
While I would love to talk about Trigs use of light to illustrate the darkening nature of things, a long day's journery into night if you like, I haven't got the room. Neither do I have the room to point out both Jody and Kevin adopt their own favourite cult members, and when the whip comes down try and get them out of Dodge. You'll need to hit one of the critcism sites to get that sort of detail, but just pointing out that there's a lot more happening in this movie than is immediately apparent.
Glenn Trigs openly admits he has been hugely influenced by The Blair Witch Project, a movie he apparently found unnerving, go figure. This is reflected in Apocalyptic as our documentary film makers interview a number of people on the streets of small town Australia and find no one has actually heard of the cult the film makers are attempting to contact. However as opposed to Blair Witch, Trigs makes this section of the movie work for him with some ominous plot foreshadowing that definitely had me wide eyed and bushy tailed. The Director had taken this approach previously when Presley opens up about the cult at the drug rehab meeting. If your horror radar is working then you know it ain't going to be plain sailing for our documentary film makers, which kind of underlines what "found footage" should be doing, i.e. to paraphrase Jim Morrison, no one is going to get out of this one alive. What Trig achieves is to keep the atmosphere and tension rocking through the second half of his movie and to gradually tighten the screws on the audience, something The Blair Witch Project failed to achieve as the later blocks of that movie proved uneven at best. Apocalyptic might be on a simmer setting, but by the final block I guarantee you will be glued to your screen and not having happy thoughts.
A found footage movie that works in the context of a standard movie, now that's an achievement
With plot foreshadowing indicating Trigs has done the impossible, made a found footage flick that resembles a traditional approach, the viewer will also note that Apocalyptic also follows the traditional three acts most horror movies are structured in. And it's here that the Writer/Director really nails things, as he lays the groundwork, escalates the secretive nature of the cult, before going totally off the rails and into a surreal nightmare with the final act.
In the first act we are introduced to our documentary film makers and everything would appear to be headed very much into found footage territory. The team meet Presley who mentions the cult, which of course perks the interest of Jody Black and Kevin Homer. While Presley thinks, once again in a measured plot foreshadowing, that nothing good can come from the Bytherainians' belief system we know Jody and Kevin are being put on a collision course with Michael Godson. I was also cool with the township interviews that on the face of things don't seem to amount to much. Once again Glenn Trigs is demonstrating his ability to get the plot happening without neon sign posting things, the townsfolk don't seem to be aware of the Cult but certainly the secretive religious conclave has ears and eyes everywhere, as Jody and Kevin are contacted later with directions on how to find the Cult. Also of note Presley has disappeared and is assumed missing as he hasn't picked up his social security cheques, clearly something sinister has gone down with Trigs not prepared to make a full disclosure.
During the second act Jody and Kevin head bush and run into Samara and Gray, two members of the cult who lead them blindfolded to the Bytherainian compound, a house in a clearing to be honest, very colonial. Things seem to be settling into a groove as Jody and Kevin start documenting the Cult's lifestyle, with the only discordant note being that all the men, with the exception of Godson, are no longer in residence. We learn that the Bytherainian prophecy is in three parts, the moving of the men, the screaming of the girls, and crossing to the new world. Anyone with their horror radar up will already be feeling pretty uncomfortable. Things get worse during the middle block of the movie as Godson seems to pick a different woman each night to sleep with, and then in almost casual fashion picks one of the pre-teen girls. It's one of the great moments of horror cinema for mine; it comes out of the blue and suddenly knocks the audience back on their collective arses. Similar in fact to Tobe Hooper's introduction of Leatherface during the original The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, that whole wham bam did I actually see what I thought I saw! Things are about to spiral out of control.
Of note about this time during the movie Director Trigs introduces one of his most insightful themes, Kevin wants to report the Cult to the authorities and believes that they have breached Australian law, Jody conversely points out that they are there on invitation and have a requirement not to involve themselves, or pass judgement for that matter, on the Cult's activities. The question Trigs skilfully asks is when does a documentary stop being simply a film and become evidence and more importantly what responsibilities do the film makers have when it comes to clearly illegal activity.
The final act of the movie begins with a biblical punishment, no spoilers but it is shocking, and one of the women suffering from epilepsy being tied to a stake outside in freezing weather. Kevin decides enough is enough, it's time to get out of Dodge, while Jody keeps right on filming. The resolution to this movie is both harrowing and hits downtown horror in a sort of fanatical Jim Jones fashion that should have every horror fan reading this rambling review rushing to their local DVD outlet to score a copy of the movie. I'm not about to say what happens, but this is a true found footage outing that doesn't pull any punches when the brown stuff hits the oscillating appliance.
Really over staying my welcome here, sorry no T&A for the pervs reading, and gorehounds are going to be sadly disappointed. This is a serious dark genre outing aimed at an adult audience who will groove to the nuances in the movie without needing a guidebook to understand it. Similar the score isn't happening, bad luck to those wanting some Rap, perhaps you should try one of the Boredwood conveyor belt outings.
Acting right across the cast is vastly superior to the ham fisted approach most found footage flicks take. That's not to say we aren't getting perfectly naturally performances, quite the contrary in fact, but itr further underlines that Trigs knows exactly what genre he is working in. Special mention of David Macrae (Michael Godson), who does a sinister Jim Jones role while not turning the role into a cartoonish parody. Macrae captures the essence of a Cult leader who has quite a number of Roos bounding around in the top paddock. I was also digging Jane Elizabeth Barry (Jody) and Geoff Pinhead (Kevin) who delivered believable performances and caught up with the conflict documentary film makers have when their subjects over step.
Apocalyptic is the definitive found footage movie that is going to cast a long shadow over the sub-genre for future movie makers. Director/Writer Glenn Trigs has captured the essence of the film style, wrapped in some traditional movie approaches, while avoiding the mistakes that are common in found footage. You will not be wondering why people are filming when things descend into chaos, where the other cameraman is that clearly shots some of the footage, or indeed why there is a score on a found footage feature. Trigs goes with a minimalistic approach but manages to layer on the nuances and depth that Apocalyptic has without belabouring things. The perfect found footage outing, this movie deserves wide recognition, full and unfettered recommendation folks; this is one movie you are not going to want to miss.
Okay not sure where this movie is at in terms of distribution in the various markets, but set your browser to Dark Epic to keep abreast of developments and eventually an online purchase option. While there check out some of the other titles Dark Epic have produced, there's a couple there that we are going to add to our review queue in the coming weeks. Apocalyptic also has an official site, click the link yo.