For a myriad of reasons, Armageddon endures as a prominent theme in popular culture. Being plunged into the wasteland is oddly, yet understandably, attractive to individuals disenfranchised by an increasingly oppressive society. A segment of society has moved beyond the mere escapism offered by post-apocalypse entertainment, choosing life “off the grid” in remote areas of the country and preparing for what they consider an inevitable collapse. Apocalypse preparation, glorified by the entertainment industry, is no longer for survival nuts; it has transformed into a bonafide movement with real world applications.Eddie Mullins playfully reflects on this concept with Doomsdays (2013), a “pre-apocalyptic” dark comedy that addresses the human imperative to get away before it all crumbles. The story concerns Dirty Fred (Justin Rice) and Bruho (Leo Fitzpatrick), two nomadic squatters who have chosen a “pre-apocalypse” lifestyle. They roam the Catskills in search of food, alcohol, and prescription drugs left behind by well-to-do vacationers. Though they each harbor opposing points-of-view, they’re thoroughly committed to the scavenger lifestyle: breaking and entering into houses, or sleeping in a tent when necessary. This suits both men just fine until they team up with an overly-exuberant teen named Jaidon (Brian Charles Johnson), and a restless young woman named Reyna (Laura Campbell), both of whom challenge Fred’s and Bruho’s limited worldview.
Doomsdays is a curious entry in the pantheon of survivalist road films. Mullins’ main protagonists serve metaphorically as diametrically opposed ideologies. The optimist Fred, rather than face an uncertain future, lives in denial as a hedonist, preferring to spend his days self-medicating with alcohol, drugs, and sex. Bruho on the other hand, concerned about peak oil, turns to destructive rage as a means of coping. Their contention is illustrated perfectly in an exchange between the two in which Bruho frantically predicts that, “billions of people will die”, to which Fred drolly quips: “or adapt.” Though their core philosophies differ, they manage to cooperate, even if their idea of basic necessities amounts to nothing more than creature comforts of the privileged. A tense third act, however, illuminates both men’s ineffectiveness when a serious crisis transpires and each find their core values challenged.Cinematographer Cal Robertson employs a subtle approach to the film’s photography. The camera never draws attention to itself, with Robertson and Mullins opting instead for statically composed shots to tell their story. It’s a refreshing contrast to the shaky camera usually reserved for disorienting the viewers of standard post-apocalyptic fare. This technique reflects the relative lack of real conflict facing the characters who are traipsing around in majestic Home & Garden approved abodes complete with saunas and party decks. Doomsdays is also a very quiet film, relying on minimal sound and little, if any, music. The film is powered by dialogue and intriguing character dynamics rather than the bombast and visceral thrills of the types of films Mullins is subverting. Doomsdays serves as an ironic bookend to Jeremy Gardner’s eccentric zombie film The Battery (2012). Both films offer a pair of survivalists traversing a rural environment, living on whatever provisions they find in abandoned homes. The difference is that in Gardner’s film, an apocalypse has left the protagonists alone to fend for themselves in a wasteland of living dead. In Doomsdays, however, Mullins’ anti-heroes are squatting in vacation rentals during the off-season in the picturesque Catskills with no zombies in sight. In fact, there isn’t any catastrophic event to speak of, nor is there any explanation of why and how long these two came to be together.
The characters similarly deal with their predicaments immaturely, and though the duo in Doomsdays are clearly comedic representations, they are a fairly realistic depiction of how privileged armchair survivalists, accustomed to ultra comfort, might fare if their world really did upheave. Neither Fred nor Bruho are particularly likable, nor are they archetypes. For these reasons they remain relatable to the viewer.Deliberately paced and talkative, Doomsdays may not appeal to everyone, but it is engaging vehicle to examine Armageddon while we still have the luxury of time to right the ship. In facing the future, do we side with the optimistic slacker Fred, or charge ahead with the impulsive pessimist Bruho? Even though Mullins’ film risks being unfairly dismissed as a quirky comedy, he is careful not to sidestep those serious philosophical questions often glossed over by action-driven dramatic interpretations. He simply rephrases them, leaving the viewer to ponder whether or not he or she is capable of surviving once the liquor cabinets of the wasteland are out of expensive Scotch and the hot tubs have long since dried up.
Check out Doomsdays in theaters and VOD now.