Joy and the Apocalypse (2011)

Description (from the DVD insert):
The world has been waiting for this day to come for four years.  Tonight at 7:15pm an asteroid will collide with earth, killing everyone but, a small few who have been chosen to survive and live in an underground colony.  A hundred years from now, after the dust settles the colony members will surface and rebuild humanity.  One of the first things they will build is a church.  Benjamin (Reza Breakstone) is the man in charge of designing the first church for the new world.  The plans are now finished.  All Benjamin needs to do is give the plans to the colony before the asteroid hits the earth.  The only thing stopping him is Joy (Vanessa Leigh), his crazy, pregnant, ex-girlfriend.  This apocalyptic story is not about the survivors.

Major Cast:
Reza Breakstone as Benjamin, Vanessa Leigh as Joy, Katelin Dickson as Linda, Tom Wolfson as Everett, Fiore Leo as Devon Harris, Ed Gutierrez as Russell, Erik Johnson as Mr. Kinziki

Special Features:
None

Written by Daniel R. Black
Directed by Daniel R. Black and Ryan Convery

Usually when a low budget movie has the word “apocalypse” in the title, you get a story about one of a limited number of things: zombies, dystopian future madness, MAD MAX-esque savages, or… hmm… I guess that’s pretty much it.  Zombies, madness, or savages.  JOY AND THE APOCALYPSE is so, so far removed from the normal low-budget apocalypse movie!  JatA is dramatic comedy about (on the surface) Benjamin’s last day on earth before the asteroid (which is no surprise) wipes out everyone this evening.  It is about how Benjamin can not enjoy his last day because on one hand he has his extremely controlling and all-around-bitch of a fiancée, Linda, making sure he’s finishing his last work, and on the other hand he has Joy, his crazy, drunken, drugged, pregnant ex-girlfriend – appearing out of nowhere after seven years of absence – who has her own agenda for Benjamin’s last hours.

JatA has a lot going on.  There is the dichotomy in Benjamin’s last day between the work he has promised to complete for his fiancée’s family (nothing like waiting until the last minute, the literal last minute on earth) and the conservative, straight-laced life he has made for himself with her, and then there is the crazy (both figuratively and literally) life that Joy brings back to Benjamin at the very last time she could.  She arrives out of nowhere, eight months pregnant, babbling like she’s on speed and drinking like a fish, and takes Benjamin’s last day hostage.  Between these lines, there is also something weird going on, something hinted to but not spelled out (and I’m not on to spoil twists, so that’s all you’re getting out of me).

The production value of JatA is very good for a low-budget film.  It appears to have been shot in HD, and the composition of the images on screen is pleasing to the eye.  There is never anything fancy or tricky about the cinematography – no Mtv edits or CGi enabled impossible shots here – but it is never boring either; it matches the mood of the film very well.  The sound quality is overall good, though there were moments here and there where the dialogue could have been a bit louder, or the music a bit softer.  The lighting was good overall, but more than a couple of the interior shots could have used a bit more work on the lighting – when you “notice” the lighting (unless it’s being used specifically to set moods ala SUSPIRIA) then it’s not doing it’s job right.  This is a small thing overall, as the rest of the technical aspects of the film are all very well done.

JatA is well written; the story/plot is intricate and does well to hint at the aforementioned twist without giving it away… and it is a very different type of twist than I’ve seen before.  The dialogue is ok; there’s not a lot of outstandingly funny lines or quotable snippets, but they do occur on occasion (Benjamin: “This is not a good place to have a baby!” Joy: “What do you want me to do, suck it up?” Benjamin: “Can you do that?”), overall the dialogue serves its function in the movie, and as this is a dramatic comedy it’s reasonable that there is not tons of witty, off-the-cuff remarks being thrown around.  While JatA is funny overall, it has a heavy side to it as well, which would not be well served by too much silliness.

Overall, JatA was a well-made, well-performed, completely unexpected take on the low-budget end-of-the-world movie.  I cannot say that I have ever seen a low-budget movie that presents the apocalypse theme this way, and I have never seen a movie with this sort of twist at the end.  I enjoyed the film, and am interested in seeing what else these filmmakers come up with in the future.

Overall 7 / 10

JatA on the IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1819561/

JatA for sale: http://www.joyandtheapocalypse.com/

JatA site: http://www.joyandtheapocalypse.com/

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