Dir. Derek Braasch, Marcelo Fabani, James Panetta, Joel D. Wynkoop & Phil Herman
An apocalypse survivor tells stories that explain the lead-up to the end of the world.
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
The Meanies Virus has ravaged mankind, leaving only a few thousand survivors across the entire world. One man has found a journal containing stories of survivors, and these stories are played out as an anthology showing the various ways that people cope and survive with an apocalypse. It’s an interesting take on post-apocalyptic horror, and the shorts within are all related to the same theme despite the very different plotlines (and background stories) of each. The first short, A Broken Promise, tells the story of a man named Rick (Justin Bower) who has made a promise to his deceased wife to take care of his young daughter. We follow this man as he guides his dog along the deserted wasteland, a lot of which looks a bit too clean to truly be a post-apocalyptic world. The acting in A Broken Promise is passable, with Bower carrying most of the load as the believable damaged man trying to protect what little he has left in the world and fulfill his final promise to his dying wife. The first short is quite a bit longer than it should’ve been, spending a lot of time with Bower just walking around the newly deserted world. It’s not bad per se, it’s just waaaay too slow and doesn’t have anywhere near the amount of action necessary to last as long as it does.
The second short, Bomb Threats, stars Debbie D as Katrina, a woman who is seeking a friend for the end of the world. She had previously turned down a date with a nerdy guy, but now that the bombs have dropped she remembers that he was talking about having a bomb shelter. Interestingly enough, she changes her mind on her attraction to him now that self-preservation is a factor. Unfortunately, Alvin (Jim Ewald), the man in whose bunker she’s crashing, has nefarious intentions. While the acting in this short is nothing to write home about, the story is dark as fuck and bleak as hell once things get going. It’s the direction that shines here, making this short even more disturbing than it would have already been. I was really surprised that they went as far in this one as they did, and as a fan of disturbing horror, it was great despite its shortcomings. It’s a short segment, only about 15 minutes, and it doesn’t need to be any longer to have the impact that it has.
The third short is Forever Man, about a woman who takes over her country and decides to harvest the poor for their organs. Voluntarily, of course. In reality, the government is creating super soldiers from their willing donors, There are definitely some issues with the short, and the effects within are a bizarre mix of prosthetics, practical effects, and CGI, but it’s also a nifty little sci-fi short that actually works pretty well. It’s a good idea conceptually, though sometimes the execution is a bit amateurish, and a lot of the writing, mostly delivered by the robotic super soldier himself, is well-written and almost philosophical. Forever Man is a low-fi emotional journey, one that doesn’t fit very well into this film but is a pretty damn good short on its own right.
The final short of the film is 187 Times, a time travel story about a man who tries to stop the outbreak that the film revolves around in order to save his wife. It’s a relatively standard time travel story, in which each backwards jump, which functions a bit like Quantum Leap, is disturbing history bit by bit. However, it’s also a bit rambly, and it doesn’t always provide a linearly coherent story. It is an interesting discussion about how the past works, though, and how changing one thing can easily change another despite the best of intentions. However, it’s a concept that’s been done better before, and, again, it has exceptionally little to do with the pre-established post-apocalyptic world. While the other shorts offer varying depictions of the apocalypse and its consequences, 187 Times is almost an entirely different story that could stand alone if it were better thought out.
The film as a whole is a good bit too long, running at just over 2 hours in length. Each segment could have used some trimming (even Bomb Threats, despite the short length), as there’s often not enough action to fill up the whole runtime. There are some parts that are done really well, though, and as is usually the case with anthology films, some of the shorts are better than others. The film does suffer from a lack of cohesion between stories, as the shorts tell stories about four wildly different apocalypses (apocalypsi? What’s the plural of apocalypse?). It would have made a bit more sense if they had been different takes on the same basic story, because otherwise the premise as a whole kinda falls apart. Some of the camerawork is brilliant, though, and Herman’s wraparound segment, which just serves to get us from a to b and doesn’t contain a whole lot of meat by itself, has some excellent drone shots that clearly took a lot of practice to pull off. The actual plot of the wraparound is more jumbled than it should be, and there’s not really a whole lot to be gained from it as a standalone story. There’s a good bit too much exposition, but if viewed as simply trying to explain the backdrop for the rest of the shorts, it’s plenty effective at accomplishing its goal. Zorac is a character that is in several of Herman’s films, however, so there may be a bit more backstory there that would make more sense if you’ve seen the other films that he’s directed.
Who this movie is for: Anthology lovers, Indie SOV fans, Not-so-short short lovers
Bottom line: Realistically, there could have been at least half an hour trimmed from the film to make it a little bit more watchable. That being said, there were some great parts of the film and some real promise behind the filmmakers involved. Phil Herman, who produced the whole effort and directed the wraparound segment, has been shooting SOV films since the early 90’s, and it shows in some of his technical expertise. The real stars here, however, are the directors of each segment and the actors within, who do a pretty decent job for the quality of indie film that is on display. Some of the gore is decent, some of the shorts are better than others, and though the film often ends up a bit more uneven than I’d like, it’s still well worth a watch for anyone who loves the sort of indie, SOV style footage within