Karen rides a subway home only to find herself trapped onboard with a group of loonies killing off everyone in the name of God. It seems the Apocalypse has sprung up and these religious radicals are killing people in order to save their souls before the demons come to take out the wicked. Isn’t that nice of them?
I’m trying to change things up and watch films without knowing very much about them. I can’t tell you how much trailers can ruin a film. It’s an unfortunate fact these days but most movies are crap and they hire these expert trailer makers to take the best parts of a mediocre film, add some snazzy editing and make it look amazing. This leads to disappointment when you finally see the film. You get yourself so psyched up over the trailer that the movie can never match your uber-hyped expectations. Not only that, but since the trailer shows the best parts, you’re essentially stepping into the movie theater and paying for the fluff exposition in between the money shots found in the trailer. And what about movie trailers from the seventies and eighties! I can remember watching horror movie trailers before watching the movie just to see what they’d be like and I ended up having the entire movie given to me in those two minutes. They literally showed main characters being killed and they even sometimes showed the killer or monster being blown up or blasted to bits. Seriously? After having a few movies spoiled for me that way, I vowed never to watch a horror movie trailer from the past three decades. Of course, trailer makers are much better about not spoiling major things like offing major characters or revealing the killer but they still show way too much. Lastly, and most annoying, sometimes films completely market themselves the wrong way. The most recent example I can think of was Jennifer’s Body. The movie marketed it to seem like Megan Fox’s character was the main character but according to my friend (because I never saw it), she’s actually a side character and her mousy friend is the leading lass. They also made it seem like a smart horror comedy but my friend said it was mostly a Mean Girls type of movie with a slight horror edge. I swear there was more but my memory escapes me once again so you can check out some more examples over here. But, I digress. The point is, I try to go into a film knowing as little as possible because I’ll have no expectations, won’t have anything ruined for me and I won’t be disappointed if the film turns out differently than expected.
The point of that overly long rant was just to say that I didn’t know much more than the synopsis when I went into the film and I do believed it helped me enjoy it much more. This film is low budget but it doesn’t really look like it is. The acting is pretty decent and so is the action. And I’ll even admit, the first ten or so minutes was pretty suspenseful with the numerous and random “boo” scares that made me and my cat jump (he was watching with me). Unfortunately, that suspense was dropped as soon as the meat of the film was bitten into. That tension was replaced with fast paced action as soon as the religious nutcases revealed themselves. That’s not to say that the action wasn’t pretty good because it was. Given its low budget, the special effects were used sparingly and that helped the film. When people were killed, it wasn’t some elaborate evisceration or exploding bodies from a punch to the chest. The effects were practical, grounded and realistic.
Characterization was pretty non-existent. Characters were introduced at random times during the film and I was never sure if they were just set up to be killed off right away or if they were going to be with me throughout the rest of the film. When I think about it, I suppose it works because these characters start off as strangers, placed in different spots on the subway when all the death goes down. They are eventually brought together when they escape the subway and try to find an escape route through the murky tunnels. We have Karen, a nurse of some kind who’s patient has just committed suicide because she believes she’s haunted by the upcoming demons from the Apocalypse. We have Mike, a random dude who Karen meets on the subway. We have a young and horny couple, a random buff dude who becomes the reluctant leader of the group, a punk rock Asian chick who barely escapes being raped by one of the religious nuts only to encounter him later again in the movie, two subway workers, and of course, the stars of the film, the crazy killers! The group, consisting of men and women, young and old, is led by a creepy old lady who begins the slaughter herself by stabbing Mike in the back with a cross-shaped knife. She receives a notification on her pager, as do the other religious cultists, telling her to “do her duty,” by killing off as many people as possible to save their souls from damnation. Thus begins the bloodshed and the group of paper-thin characters escaping their subway seats to find safety elsewhere.
Mike survives the attack, although he’s hurt pretty badly. Throughout the film, other characters either fall victim to the cultists or are revealed to be cult members themselves. This does help jack up the tension a tiny bit, although it would have been better if the cult members were kept a secret longer. Most of them are revealed within the first few minutes and they are reluctant members and not double crossing and deceptive about their association. Although the characters are pretty one dimensional, you pretty much know, based on their stereotypical role, who is going to die and who isn’t, right? Wrong. I was actually surprised to see some characters bite it because their type usually makes it through. Because I didn’t know much about nor care for any of the characters, the fact that I wasn’t worried about their fate was replaced with the fun of guessing who would live and who would die.
As the film progresses, we learn, via a television broadcast from the reverend leader of the cult, that he was the one who paged everyone to start killing people and reveals that it’s happening everywhere, not just in the area of the subway. This helps add some spookiness and reinforces that apocalyptic feel. It’s a little unsettling to see how far reaching religious fanaticism can be. Another disturbing part was putting the characters in uncomfortable and unthinkable situations, such as encountering two little boys who are members of the cult. Of course, no one wants to kill a kid but what do you do when that kid is coming at you with a knife in his hand and blood on his brain? There was also a scene where a man tried to pass as a cult member to escape being killed only to be told to kill his very pregnant wife in order to prove his love to God and his wife. I don’t want to say what happens because I don’t want to ruin it but those scenes definitely pushed boundaries and I respected the way they were handled because, to me, I felt it came from a place of realism. The way things unfolded did not feel cheap or exploitive, only shocking in a deep and realistic way. Bravo to the director for having the balls to go there and for pulling it off with some taste.
Two thing about the end I want to mention. First of all, the crazy old religious leader lady mentions that she and her group were trying to save as many people as possible before the dead rose up to kill off everyone else. This got my mind to spinning about the possibilities of what I’d be seeing in a few minutes. And while the end did showcase what happened to all the people that were killed by the cultists, I didn’t feel the film went far enough with that set up. Of course, that could have been because of budgetary reasons but I was wanting to see something much more epic than what I got, not to say that what they did do was bad, just not what I expected. Of course, since they didn’t go in the direction I was expecting, it definitely gave me some ideas for a story of my own so I’m a little glad it didn’t go down that way! Finally, the last frame of the film completely turned everything upside down and I loved it. A lot of people were upset about the vague, and in some people’s opinions, lazy ending. I like the fact that the ending let you decide what did or did not happen. Just by that last frame, it added a whole new depth to the film and I appreciated that.
While the movie itself wasn’t scary, except for the first few minutes, the idea behind the movie is terrifying. While I identify with Christianity, religion scares the crap out of me sometimes. Or maybe it’s not religion itself but religious fanatics that scare me. Sometimes people use religion to mask their sheer insanity. Do something crazy and then blame it on God. Who can argue with orders from God? When God tells you to do something, you do it. I really like the fact that he film tapped into that whole religious craziness that some people get caught up in. I also like the fact that the film explored both options of maybe this really was the end of the world brought on by God or maybe it was just a bunch of crazy people using God as an excuse to kill. The film never gave a definitive answer, thanks to that genius ending, and I appreciated the fact that not one agenda wasn’t pushed. Some may claim that was wussing out but I don’t think so. Who has the right to say that these people were just crazy and who’s to say that they weren’t? All in all, the film was pretty good and brings up some really good topics to ponder. Also, the director, Maurice Devereaux, directed another cool flick that I saw several months ago called Slashers. I’m definitely going to be looking out for more of this guy’s films and you should, too!
3.5 out of 5.