Thursday, 11 December 2014


So, I make one smart-arsed joke about being unpopular with Australian film makers and then I’m promptly forced to eat my words!
The lovely folks behind new Found-Footage chiller Apocalyptic (an antipodean bunch) were kind enough to send me a link to their highly-anticipated film — one which has been called Blair Witch meets The Wicker Man. That’s a pretty big claim!
Could our cousins from Down Under back it up? Read on...


Dir: Glenn Triggs
Starring: Jane Elizabeth Barry, Geoff Pinfield, David Macrae, Tom McCathie, Felicity Steel, Ashleigh Gregory, Janice Paull, Nalini Vasudevan, Zoe Imms, Natalia Nespeca, Rachel Torrance, Frederique Fouche

SPEEDY SYNOPSIS: I’ll try not to spoil too much here, but read on at your own risk.

The film follows a pair of documentarians, Jodie (Barry) and Kevin (Pinfield) who think they may have discovered an incredible scoop. After speaking to a recovering addict at an AA meeting, they are made aware of a tiny religious sect named the Bytherainians, who are based out in the Bush.
Jodie and Kevin are able to piece together enough information to work out where the group may be based, then head out into the unclaimed woodland to interview and document the lives of the group who follow the enigmatic Michael Godson (Macrae).
At first the group — consisting entirely of women with the exception of Godson — seems odd, but innocent. However, as time passes more sinister secrets are brought to the fore.…

BEST BITS (mild spoiler warning): 
By far one of the strongest parts of this film is the great job that the cast do. This film is brilliantly acted, with the vast majority of the actors and actresses giving a raw realism in their performance that, combined with the mockumentary style of the film, draws the viewer in before slamming the trapdoor down on us. I particularly liked Barry and Pinfield, whose easy rapport and controlled work was a joy to behold. I also enjoyed the wide-eyed and naive performance of Vasudevan as Neve. She made for an extremely sympathetic character, one which gave a sad insight into the type of weak-willed trust that could find itself indoctrinated in a doomsday cult. 
Speaking of the cult, there's a lot riding on Macrae in this film. First, his distinctive appearance really adds a lot to the character, his face transforming into an unsettling grinning skull with the subtlest change of expression. Also his clipped British accent really distinguishes him from his Australian co-stars, giving Godson an otherworldly feel among his followers. As an actor Macrae is clearly an accomplished veteran, taking a character that could at times devolve into caricature and (mostly) keeping him grounded.
The actors certainly pull their weight, but they are lucky enough to have a strong script to work with - something which is absent all too often in the genre. The dialogue is realistic and the interactions between the cult members chilling. 
The realism is carried into the plot, one which takes the time to let the story breathe and crawl under your skin. As events unfold the tension is steadily ratcheted up. You find yourself waiting for the point that the actions of the Bytherainians will become too much for the documentary team and dread the consequences that should befall the two leads if they attempt to interfere with the sect.
One of the most disturbing moments comes mere moments after a gross and horrifically violent act. The elated and joyful look on the faces of the Bytherainians will haunt me for years to come.
Credit should also be given to the horrifying finale — the customary shaky cam run through dark woodland at the end of a Found Footage flick should be cliche by now, but in Apocalyptic it really does fit within the confines of the story. That it still packs a visceral punch following a scene as disturbing as the one in the chapel (in which Godson finally brings his vision for the group to fruition) speaks volumes. The last 20 minutes or so of the film are legitimately horrifying with a fascinatingly bleak and surprising conclusion.
Director Triggs doesn’t just deserve praise for the way in which he guides his actors or the assured way in which he tells his story — his vision is superb. The stark but often beautiful Australian Bushland surrounding the Bytherainians commune is shot perfectly, almost becoming a character in its own right. It becomes frightening, wild, yet quiet, still and alluring — a perfect allegory for the cult nestled within.

WORST BITS (mild spoiler warning): 
In truth, there is very little wrong here. 
First off, this film is a found footage horror film. I know a lot of people have had their fair share of this particular cinematic trend and, if you are one of those people, Apocalyptic may not quite do enough to change your mind. Unlike a lot of Found-Footagers, Triggs' film does give a legitimate reason for all of this footage to exist and even directly addresses why the crew continues to film when things take a sinister turn for the worse. However, it does still suffer from some of the setbacks that these films carry, such as the camera remaining on during supposedly private conversations, the camera still being carried when people are fleeing for their lives and that same camera being placed/falling to the floor in EXACTLY the right position to capture key and important plot moments. Unfortunately, that’s just par for the course with these films and doesn't happen anywhere near as often of some of the other recent entries in the sub-genre.
I suppose that while I praised the characterisation of most characters, some of those in the Bytherainians — with the exceptions of Neve and Godson's fanatical wives, Elowen (Steel) and Mary (Fouche) — were less well-rounded. Then again, these were members of a brainwashed cult and I can very well imagine that this was intended — a measure used to show that all individuality and free will had been ironed out of them. With this in mind, I'll give it a pass.
I did praise Macrae earlier for his almost faultless performance. Unfortunately a couple of his lines seemed a little off. As so much of the performance was note-perfect, I honestly think this was a choice on his part, a subtly disconcerting aloofness to play up his distant and mystical air. To me, it occasionally missed the spot, but these moments were very few and far between in what was otherwise a mesmerising performance. Again this is very much a matter of personal taste and opinion, and certainly didn't hamper my enjoyment of the film.

VERDICT: So, Blair Witch meets The Wicker Man? Not exactly, but I would say Apocalyptic made for a nice cross between Cannibal Holocaust and Ti West's The Sacrament.
It is an easy recommendation for me, a devastatingly realistic horror film that finds its scares not in ghosts, demons or monsters but in the shadowy recesses of the human mind. Michael Godson's cult, their actions and the frightening joy they take in them are the stuff of nightmares. A fantastic cast, a beautifully bleak location and a heart-stopping final act all breathe fresh life into the tired found footage genre. This film is more than worth your time.
Luckily, this is one of those rare times where a film is available to watch. The film was released on DVD here in the UK earlier this year, so head over to your favourite retailer and pick up a copy. Before you go, why don't you head over to their official Facebook page and hit it with a Like. Show the extremely talented people at Dark Epic Productions some love, wherever you're from!

If you haven’t already, do please check out and like the Hickey’s House of Horrors Facebook page, which you can find here. It gives you a nice quick link to any new posts on this blog, plus regular news updates from around the web. I check the Internet so you don’t have to!
Until next time, I hope you enjoyed your stay.

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