The fastest way to spread herpes in the future…
Set in the common filmic representation of the future, bodies start piling up when lovers Katia and Gladys roll into town. It doesn’t sit too well with an infamous serial murderer called The Red Harvest Killer when the media starts adding these sloppily done deaths to his score card. In order to save face and his methodical reputation, he must lend assistance to the very government agent who has been after him for several years. As if that weren’t enough, the end of the world just so happens to be nigh. Very nigh, in fact. A little too nigh if you ask me…
A futuristic sci-fi action thriller with a wicked sense of humor and an investigative mystery filled with some well-executed twists, Apocalypse Kiss is both familiar and original at the same time. Writer/director Christian Grillo combines a solid story, great performances, and inventive direction into a genre hodgepodge that is far better than most films of its kind.
Firstly, the work done by the cast here is above average across the board. Carmela Hayslett and Tammy Jean share real chemistry as the nomadic lesbian lovers. Hayslett has a much more convincing than usual grasp on sign language (even if her Russian accent is a bit suspect) and Jean adeptly veers between tough and victimized. Brian Anthony Wilson owns his role as a futuristic oracle that creatively meshes Oz (the wizard, not the prison) with a creepy take on Max Headroom. We also get a batch of fun appearances by some longtime genre favorites on hand to lend their brand of credibility. Tom Atkins can play a police captain in his sleep (and, kinda does here), but he’s a welcome presence in his extended cameo. In much smaller roles, be on the lookout for head-of-Troma Lloyd Kaufman as the president (hey, I’d vote for him) and a blink-and-you’ll-miss-him Michael Berryman as a corporation head.
Best of all are Tom Detrik and D.C. Douglas as the cop and killer, respectively, squaring off in a battle of wills. Creatively, the film slips into film noir territory whenever Agent Hipple is on screen, and the actor seems perfectly transported directly from the pulpiest of old detective flicks. Detrik’s hard-boiled dick (sorry) even comes complete with on-the-nose self-narration and a haunting by his deceased love (played by real life wife Bonnie Loev). Stealing the show is Douglas’s self and compulsively obsessed Adrian, who has never been happy with the nickname bestowed upon him by the media whose attention he so desperately craves. He’s funny and scary as a killer who just wants to be recognized for the work that he does. The lengths he is willing to go to achieve notoriety provide some of the film’s best moments.
Visually, the film is much more impressive than it has any right to be based upon the presumed budget. In fact, at times, it would almost appear that the filmmakers may have had a decent amount of money to work with. The less true that statement is, the more impressed you’ll be. Interestingly, as we follow each of the various characters on their pre-converged plot threads, their individual settings are all given their own distinct look that fits in perfectly with their situations-at-hand. The representation of the future is mostly familiar, but has a few creative tricks up its sleeve to set it apart from the pack. There is always something interesting going on in the background, but it never detracts from the upfront action.
Unfortunately, for the majority of the film, the apocalypse angle seems unnecessarily shoehorned in and once its resolution comes around, it feels as if it could have possibly been left out altogether, knocking a few minutes off of the running time. Also, while the score is rather well done, there are a few soundtrack choices that don’t quite seem to fit in with the rest of the proceedings. Additionally, if you’re looking for a good deal of gore, you’ll be slightly disappointed here, but don’t worry – they more than make up for it in the T & A department (If ever anything deserved to have its own department…) .
JASON’S FINAL THOUGHTS
There’s quite a bit to enjoy here with the twists and turns of this fun little mix of Blade Runner, Dexter, and The Big Sleep. Featuring spot on performances and an intriguing story that are certainly of a higher caliber than you’d normally find in a similarly budgeted film, director Christian Jude Grillo is mostly successful here. I could certainly see this film scoring well with audiences on the lookout for the next great underground cult classic. Please forgive any misspellings of the word apocalypse in my review as it is officially the hardest word to spell in the English language.
Review by Jason Howard, Film Critic