Directed by Glenn Triggs
Distributed by Monster Pictures UK
More found footage makes its way onto our screens courtesy of director Glenn Triggs with his religious cult-themed entry Apocalyptic. While filming at an addiction therapy session, Australian local news reporter Jodie (Barry) and her cameraman, Kevin (Pinfield), get talking to an attendee who informs them of a strange religious cult, existing in seclusion, from which he recently escaped.
Taking his assertions of concern for those still remaining there as seriously as he apparently means them, Jodie and Kevin are soon in contact with cult members and set out to make their big break by documenting just what it is that the “Heaven’s Gate” followers get up to out in the countryside.
Once they arrive at the instructed location, the pair are led, blindfolded, through the woods by two young girls, only to emerge in a beautiful, serene basin of green land populated by wooden cabins and the cult itself. There, they set about interviewing the all-female cult members and their male spiritual leader – the enigmatic Michael Godson (Macrae). This being a horror flick, it obviously isn’t all singing, dancing, praying and self-sufficient communal living; and as the nature of “The Prophecy” that drives Godson’s cult gradually unfolds, the situation becomes ever more dangerous for our visitors.
Comparisons with Ti West’s recent film The Sacrament are inevitable here, and both films do have very similar themes, beats and structures to them – albeit mainly due to the Jonestown Massacre-esque foundations on which they lay themselves. Triggs’ Apocalyptic, however, does manage to distance itself rather well from West’s effort by way of a somewhat more fantastical undercurrent. Where The Sacrament dwells within a cell of assured, purely human madness and horror, Triggs allows, via his introduction of Godson’s prophecy, a constant thread of doubt to run just beneath what actually unfolds before the cameras.
Apocalyptic is an obviously low budget entry into the genre, but Triggs acts wisely throughout the production, keeping his range of central characters small and focused and the action confined to a very small location – which also happens to be one that lends a large amount of value to the film. It really does feel a thousand miles away from civilisation – like help would be almost impossible to find, even if someone were to wildly flee in search of it.
Kudos also to Triggs for unfolding the story in a manner that is never less than involving, gradually ramping up the tension and ‘what-the-hell’ moments until the requisite Kool-Aid-flooded final act wherein all hell breaks loose in a cacophony of running, screaming, blood and vomit. These aren’t the most shocking moments of Apocalyptic, though. No, those are reserved for quieter times, presented completely matter-of-factly as the casual behaviour of the cult and demonstrative of the control that Michael exudes over his women. There’s a point in this film that exhibits the bedtime routine for Michael and his followers which takes a very sudden, shocking and dark turn – one that will leave you sitting, mouth agape, at what is taking place while nobody bats an eyelid except our protagonists. It’s very well done indeed.
On the other hand, it isn’t all sing-songs and swigging from chalices when it comes to Apocalyptic. The characters are frequently underdeveloped, and our protagonists much too passive until things have gone very, very wrong to really care all that much about. Those punctuated shock points throughout the film may be genuinely appalling, but there’s rarely an actual sense of fear or concern for what might happen to Jodie and Kevin. Macrae, as Godson, has the perfect looks for his role and comes across as enigmatic and devoted (crazy?) enough, but like the majority of the other players, he often feels on the verge of slipping up – rarely quite as authentic and convincing in his performance as he genuinely does appear to be trying to be. Occasional scenes of dialogue between the protagonists seem poorly improvised due to their stilted delivery, even though they were likely fully scripted. It lends an odd feel to a film that does put in a lot of effort at being naturalistic, but just can’t quite break through amateur constraints.
Still, rocky performances and overly bland characters aside, Apocalyptic does manage to rattle up a number of good shocks plus an enthralling central mystery with a decent ending and doesn’t outstay its welcome when all is said and done. It won’t change your world, nor indeed end it, but for aficionados of the found footage genre, it’s certainly worth a look. If you don’t think you can handle any more climactic shaky-cam running and screaming in the woods, you’d be better served in a similar, yet incrementally more confident manner by The Sacrament.
Special features on Monster Pictures’ UK DVD release of Apocalyptic include the trailer for the film itself and for a bunch of other Monster releases, a nicely in-depth circa 75-minute ‘Making of’ featurette filled with plenty of interesting interview material and a feature commentary by director Glenn Triggs that runs at a brisk pace with very little downtime. Overall, a pretty good package for a pretty decent film.
7 out of 5
7 1/2 out of 5