What would you do if you believed the world was coming to an end? Not in hundreds or thousands of years, but in your lifetime, at some undetermined point in the near future. Society as we know it would crumble and survival during harsh times would be easier for those who prepared for it. Some might stockpile goods and retreat to a bunker with their family. Others might hoard weapons to prepare for a possible war over the remaining resources. Most would probably just continue on with their life as is, waiting to see what happens. But what about those who just don’t give a fuck? Those who don’t care about anyone, barely about themselves, and simply live day to day however they see fit, taking comfort in their vices. What if they decided to get a head start?
Doomsdays follows Dirty Fred and Bruho, two guys squatting in vacation homes around the Catskills of New York during the off-season. They’ve abandoned normal, productive society due to their belief in an oncoming event known as Peak Oil that will result in the decline of civilization due to diminishing petroleum resources. Rather than wait for it to happen, they’ve decided to start living a post-apocalyptic life in advance. For them that means becoming scavengers and pirates: They break into empty homes and enjoy themselves until they either run out of food or are discovered, at which point they move on to the next vacant property.
While these two vagabonds are united in their survivalist lifestyle, they couldn’t be more different. Dirty Fred, played by Justin Rice (Mutual Appreciation, Harmony and Me), is a lazy, charismatic hipster douchebag. He’s extremely cynical, condescending, and selfish. He’s also an alcoholic, seeking out booze before anything else the moment they enter a new residence, and a sexually frustrated womanizer. On the other hand, Bruho, played by Leo Fitzpatrick (Kids, Bully), is more of a quiet introvert with anger management issues. He’s a violent anarchist that will lash out at anyone or anything on the slightest provocation. He believes in the Peak Oil theory so strongly that he won’t travel by car and damages any car he encounters.
This dynamic creates what I would call a dramatic black comedy buddy film and this becomes even more apparent when a pair of wrenches get thrown in the works. The first is Jaidon (Brian Charles Johnson), a local teenager who’s captivated by the duo and decides to tag along. The second is Reyna (Laura Campbell), a young woman that Dirty Fred takes a liking to after crashing a party. She too eventually joins the group and before you know it things start to spiral out of control.
I was drawn to Doomsdays because of the subject matter and it did not disappoint. The two main characters are well written, as are the two key supporting characters, which is very important considering the film focuses more on the characters than a traditional story. First-time writer/director Eddie Mullins does a remarkable job of slowly revealing more and more about each character without relying on exposition. It doesn’t hurt that he’s aided by fine work from Rice, Fitzpatrick, Johnson, and Campbell. All four are great, especially Fitzpatrick, who hasn’t been this good since playing Johnny Weeks on The Wire. There are a few so-so characters and acting performances among the minor roles, but nothing that really gets in the way of the full picture.
Mullins also does a great job behind the camera, framing his shots artfully and using a lot of long takes, sometimes from strange angles. It gives the film another dose of personality and, combined with the natural beauty of the Hudson Valley region, makes it look very impressive considering this is an independent film on a modest budget. I’m definitely looking forward to more from Mullins and I’d be interested to see what he can accomplish with a much larger budget. Overall I thoroughly enjoyed Doomsdays from beginning to end and I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good character study or films about those who live on the fringes of society.
Also of note is Doomsdays came to life via Kickstarter thanks to contributions totalling $22,051, just $51 over the goal. However, that was quickly burned through once production began and the final cost ballooned to roughly $150,000, which Mullins largely takes responsibility for in part due to the whole learning process he went through in making it. That probably explains why it took so long for this film to receive an official release (the Kickstarter campaign ended on March 12, 2002).
One last thing I’d like to mention is that Doomsdays may or may not be mumblecore. Honestly, I don’t even understand what mumblecore is because as far as I can tell it’s just a label slapped on a bunch of similarly made films that use techniques previously popularized by directors like Woody Allen, Richard Linklater, and Jim Jarmusch. It’s a dumb fucking media fuelled marketing gimmick, similar to grunge or nu-metal in the music industry, only worse. Well, worse from a classification standpoint. I don’t think I’ve ever actually watched a mumblecore film before (until now?), so they could all be shit for all I know. Anyway, Doomsdays might be considered mumblecore based on some cursory research, coupled with the fact that Justin Rice is apparently a mumblecore veteran. Nevertheless, Doomsdays is a great film, regardless of genre or label, and that’s what’s important.
Mini-rant over. You can check out Doomsdays on VOD or in select theaters beginning June 5th.