New Sci-Fi Releases: Apocalypsis (2018) - Reviewed

Apocalypsis is a visually stunning parallel universe.

A favorite belief among conspiracy theorists with a religious bent is that the RFID chip, if ever implanted in and used to track humans, is actually the mark of the Beast and a signifying event of the End Times. This theory seems to provide the basis of the strange but oddly mesmerizing new film Apocalypsis. Apocalypsis is a unique sci-fi/fantasy thriller set in an alternate world where the United States is under threat of martial law. Director/animator Eric Leiser uses a wide array of techniques, from drone shots to stop animation, to create this tense, striking world that exists somewhere between beautiful and baffling.

Apocalypsis centers on two primary characters, Eastern orthodox converter Evelyn (Maria Bruun) and hardcore conspiracy theorist and underground radio host Michael (Chris O'Leary). Evelyn studies the book of Revelations and finds herself haunted by vivid visions of its depictions of the End Times. Meanwhile, Michael finds he must remain mobile to evade authorities and continue his fight against the shadowy surveillance state. The two cross paths due to their refusal to get "The Chip" for their own reasons but must work together if they and their causes are to survive the increasingly unstable world.

The plot, such as it is, seems to serve primarily as a vehicle for the visuals. Leiser's interest in experimental and avant garde filmmaking is prevalent throughout Apocalypsis. For its ample uses of many different visual techniques—an overlay here, some color saturation there—there is very little feeling of the stylistic choices becoming so overwhelming that they swallow the story whole. The aesthetic choices enhance the tense but beautifully shot dystopia inhabited by our heroes. Particularly stirring are Evelyn's visions of Revelations. Filmed in stop motion and animated by Leiser himself, the animation may not be the smoothest and the character designs may border on juvenile, but one must acknowledge the undeniable hard work and passion that goes into using such a notoriously difficult and time-consuming medium to tell a story.

There are plenty of moments where Apocalypsis gets a bit obtuse and hard to follow, and others where it wallows a bit too much in its own crazy. Through even its most difficult moments Apocalypsis remains a busy but stunning visual feast, keeping things interesting and holding the viewer's attention. The film aims high, and while it doesn't always hit its lofty goals, it works incredibly hard to try, and the effort is both clearly visible and appreciated. This isn't a film for everyone, but those who take a chance on Apocalypsis will experience a strange, visually stunning new world, and while the story may at times escape them, at least they won't get bored watching. 

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-Mike Stec