Chad Peter’s Apocalypse, CA is one ambitious piece of work. This tale of the end of the world, by asteroid collision, is nothing you would expect. Well, unless you expect wishes being granted by a strange radio DJ, a giant woman terrorizing the state of California, pills that cause instant sexual gratification and some gender-and-body-swapping.
With just 5 days until the end of the world, drunken John (Nick Mathis) is surprised by mysterious radio DJ Sassy Boots (Elizabeth Sandy), who claims to grant him three wishes. John awakens 2 days later, only he’s no longer John, he’s John in Jacklyn’s (Erin Bodine) body. Jacklyn, likewise, is now in John’s body. Around this time, a giant woman (Sarah Smick) begins wrecking California, barely squashing John’s brother Hank (Alexander Cardinale) and his friend Renee (Anne McDaniels), a drug dealer peddling gender-specific pills that cause you to feel like you’ve had sex. All five characters come together to escape the giantess, heading to Palm Springs to be at the epicenter when the asteroid hits, therefore sparing them a potentially painful, slow demise.
Sounds nutty, doesn’t it? I’ll admit, it’s a lot to take in and I’m not entirely sure if it all comes together for me at the end but it sure is an original cinematic experience. I’m pretty sure I’ve never heard someone try to explain that synopsis to me before, and I’ve seen quite a bit. So, regardless of whether you think it works or not, massive credit due for trying something so ridiculously far-out.
Of course, it’s not all roses; I must be getting sensitive in my ever-increasingly old age because films or television shows where people shout all the time have really begun to annoy me. Not to say it isn’t warranted in a movie about the end of the world, but the main characters sure do love to yell at each other, and not in that It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia way (which hides humor in its obnoxious tone). Let’s just say the moments when dialogue or plot developments were allowed to happen at a conversational level were welcome, and if narrative movement occurred during the louder moments, I probably involuntarily tuned it out.
That said, while we’re talking about the audio (which, for all my criticisms of the shouting, it sure was mixed well), the score was right up my alley. It reminded me of the later output of Nine Inch Nails (particularly the Ghosts material), and was a highlight throughout the film. Additionally, while you could probably say quite a bit about the film that is subjective, I can’t imagine anyone saying that this film looked bad. The cinematography is top-tier, and so is the effects work.
And no, I’m not just talking about the asteroid. Near the end of the film things get particularly intense with the special effects, and the effects-work excels in every way it can. I can’t remember having that “off” feeling that an awkward effect can cause visually, and there are a few wide shots in the final minutes that, similar to the latest Lars von Trier films, had me wanting a framed still to hang on my wall.
So there is quite a bit to like (even love) about Apocalypse, CA, and a few bits that I wasn’t all that keen on. Where it stands with most audiences will probably come down to their willingness to embrace the narrative risks, but whether you dig the story or not, there’s a certain amount of respect to be earned here in the attempt. I mean, end of the world scenarios in indie films are one thing, but mixing in a destructive giant woman, body-swapping, sex pills AND nuclear fire in the same narrative is one hell of a move to make.
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