Monday, November 28, 2016

Apocalypse and the Beauty Queen – review

Director: Thomas Smugala

Release date: 2005

Contains spoilers

Sometimes I just don’t hate films as much as others seem to do. Sometimes I stumble across a film that has a sub-genre theme and give it a whirl and am surprised. Perhaps not overwhelmed and shocked, but at least a little bit taken aback by the film.

Meet Apocalypse and the Beauty Queen, a low budget film that – by all that is sane in film watching, and more so in critiquing – should deserve to vanish into an oblivion but actually manages to hold its own – at least a little. It is also a film that has a Báthory aspect.

Beverly Hynds as Amber
We are in a post-apocalyptic America – the world hasn’t been ended by zombies or zompires, not by pestilence, nuclear devastation or GM crops. Rather the power grid has failed and the world has slumped into chaos as a result. In this particular county, a former Beauty Queen and super model Amber Bathory (Beverly Hynds) has taken control. At first it seemed by popular demand – she displayed particularly sharp survival skills and leadership. However, by the point we start to observe the story she is a despot and the people are starving.

Matthew meets Sylvie
Girls are going missing also and we meet Sylvie (Courtney Kocak), who lives with her “uncle” Reggie (Gunnar Hansen), an alcoholic tombstone carver. Sylvie falls into the hands of Amber’s captain of the guard Matthew (Carlos Gonzalez-Vio, the Mortal Instruments: City of Bones), who offers food and then drugs her with wine. She is taken to serve Amber but he falls for her and it is Sylvie’s presence and escape from Amber that destabilises Amber’s kingdom.

toe dipping
So, she is called Bathory and she is jealous of anyone younger and prettier than she is (she was called ugly as a child, became a super model but her light had faded before the apocalypse occurred). We see her smudge blood from servants onto her skin, we hear that she slowly drained one girl whilst keeping her alive, causing her to become anaemic, and we see one scene with a girl suspended above a bath, her throat slit and a foot descending into the blood.

running a bath
That’s about it, but it is clearly taken from the Báthory legend, with Amber playing the role of a (post-)modern day Erzsébet. And, like the historic Báthory, the viewer is asked to question the extent of the woman’s crimes. She is no angel, certainly, but is she as bad as the legend seems to be painting her? But what about the film?

a smudge of blood
The acting was, at best, stagey – fake laughter and dialogue delivered from the boards rather than appearing naturalistic. That said I was actually rather impressed by said dialogue – the delivery could have been better but the writing was rather good. The world seemed desolate but cheaply photographed. If you thought too hard, then the post-apocalyptic world didn’t hold together – however on face value it was effective enough and in some respects didn’t need to be realistic. CGI bullet holes were probably the worst of the effects.

Yet somewhere in all this the film held me – it was perhaps a tad drawn out but I have spent worse nights with a movie. 4 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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