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Tuesday, 10 September 2013

The Desert (2013)

Director: Ryan O'Connell
Star: Chris O'Connell
This film was a submission to one of the IFP Phoenix film challenges in 2013. Here's an index to my reviews of 2013 submissions.
Here's another IFP Beat the Clock entry that falls firmly into the category of 'worst day ever'. This one's slightly different from the others in that its calamities are generated by the lead character rather than just experienced by him. He doesn't have a name but he's not the brightest bulb in the pack and he's able to create a worst possible scenario just as well as the supporting characters do in The Worst Best Man or An Adventure in the Life of Barry Barksworth. He's also whiny enough for it to grate, though the film isn't long enough for him to become truly annoying. As the skimpy story begins, his Candy Crush game is rudely interrupted by a text from his brother, Brian. 'I really need your help,' it says, but that's it. So off goes our knight to the rescue, or so he thinks. He's hardly a knight and he's dim enough that he probably can't even spell it. Like Mr Bean with a stream of consciousness voice, he stumbles along from calamity to calamity until a resolution decides to join him.

Chris O'Connell is decent enough in the lead role, as frustrating as it is to watch him flounder, but he's overshadowed by pretty much everything else. We have no sympathy when he decides Brian has got stranded in the desert searching for the Lost Dutchman mine, so drives out only to strand himself with a blown tyre, no spare and no reception on his cellphone. Rather than feel the tension as he hitches a lift from a sinister driver, we relish in the performance of Mike Watkiss. If I tell you he's reminiscent of Michael Rooker, with impenetrable wraparound shades and a deep voice that leans towards Nick Nolte as he points out that the desert is 'a great place to dump a body', you'll get the picture. He's a riot and I wanted more of him. Fortunately there's other good stuff to come. While the camera gets annoyingly jerky in the desert, the sound is bad outdoors and the twist is hardly essential, there's some fun colour play, a nice silhouette and a great snot shot. For a 48 hour film, this one has imagination to spare.

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