David (Sam Senovich) is easily having the worst day of his life. His distrusting wife browbeats him and leaves him, he loses his job and, while staying at his uncle’s cabin, the end of the world happens. From then on, Dystopia: 2013 becomes a familiar story of survivors trying to navigate the post-apocalypse landscape.
As in many films of its ilk, David is wandering to some dreamed-up haven where things aren’t as bad as where he is currently. In his travels, he winds up saving Nick (Cody Shiloh Brown) from a violent dirt bike-riding gang. Though Nick is not the most friendly of personalities, the two stick together, eventually meeting up with Peter (Steve Arvig), a guy who looks like a cave-dwelling Santa Claus, and the crew wind up saving the near-mute Samantha (Kristen Mothersbaugh) from the same gang that menaced Nick earlier. The foursome bonds, reveals what they were doing before the apocalypse and does their best to find supplies, steer clear of the gangs and get to their destination (even if none of them actually know where they’re going, or what to expect when they get there).
The film picks up, in originality, gore and mayhem, in the third act when we’re introduced to the gas mask-wearing gang at the refinery that even our previous antagonists, the dirt bike gang, were afraid of. This new crew of sickos have a perverse sense about them when it comes to entertainment and the continuation of the species. In the former, two teams, prisoners vs. guards, play a variation of an old Mayan game, with the losing team’s captain getting scalped and then beaten like a piñata by the rabid audience. In the latter, two women are pitted against each other in a fight to the death, with the winner being considered fit for procreation and, therefore, raped.
My biggest stumbling block with Dystopia: 2013 is the character of David. At the beginning of the film, I’m on-board with his sad sack predicament, and even when he meets up with Nick, he still seems like the type of guy I could root for. As the film goes on, however, often in conflict or in reaction to something Nick says or does, the David character becomes a very wishy-washy, contradictory personality.
For example, he puts himself out there to save Nick, but the second they disagree on something he’s already suggesting Nick take a walk, and generally distrusting of Nick for the rest of the film. Why’d he help him out, then, and why did he make a big deal about the two sticking together? While it bothers me how often David seems to flip-flop his emotions (and unfortunately, Sam Senovich doesn’t sell those emotions that well, so often his demeanor is exactly the same while doing opposite actions), I can at least see why his ex-wife could browbeat him to the extent she does in the opening.
Also, for a dark and dingy tale of the damaged future, it sure is bright and clean-looking for a good chunk of the film. I’m not saying I wanted the filmmakers to dirty up the picture, or use a shitty camera, but this is one of those cases where I’ll admit to the bias of being preconditioned by similar flicks to expect some form of visual degradation or processing to make things feel more messed up than they are. Something about people running or hiding from guys on dirt bikes in the crisp, clear daylight that just doesn’t seem as menacing as it could if the film had some grain going.
In the end, Dystopia: 2013 is a nice addition to the post-apocalyptic genre, though nothing groundbreaking. It definitely finds its most interesting footing in the third act, when the danger becomes more evident and personal. If these types of films are your cup of tea, you’ll find a lot in this film reminiscent of other flicks, and it’s a comfortable experience in that way.
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