Who doesn’t love a good apocalypse film? A scenario where the world gets infected by a deadly virus and goes into global shutdown is a pallet for creativity to blossom. With films such as 28 Days Later and Contagion becoming far more relevant now due to a real life global pandemic, this should be a recipe for an entertaining film. However, that’s not always the case, as is for Doomsday Stories.
A deadly global virus spread in 2019, which plunged the world into chaos with high gas prices, wars and food shortages, leading to a death toll of over five million worldwide deaths. In 2022, a final strain of the virus was killing five million people per day. Three years later, a vaccine called “Meanies” was created, but only ended up wiping out almost all of humanity, save for 8,000 people, with mutants created from “Meanies” hunting them down. In this apocalypse, a man named Zorack, a survivor with a mysterious and storied past, reads a journal that contains stories of how the world came to an end.
To start, I want to say that I am a huge supporter of Indie filmmaking. Just because a film doesn't have the budget of a blockbuster doesn't mean that it can’t be good. Hell, some of my favorite films are Indie films! But there is a fine line between Indie filmmaking and simply shoestring budget filmmaking, and this is an example of the latter. To say that the production value is low would be an understatement, as Doomsday Stories feels like an amateur art school project. The sound design is sub-par at best, with the audio either sounding too loud or too quiet at times. Meanwhile, the cinematography is extremely basic, largely consisting of close-up, medium and over the shoulder shots. And finally, there just wasn’t much attention to detail put on making the world feel like it was ending. It all felt like the same world we know. There’s no sign of decay or liminality. For example, in the first story, when Rick returns to his old house, electricity still appears to be running as he takes an ice cold beer from the fridge, which is still humming. What kind of apocalypse still has working electricity? Sign me up! I understand that the world has come to an end due to a virus, but the virus still created mutants, who would still have caused major collateral damage.
But besides the disappointing production value, the acting is difficult to sit through. The actors all feel wooden and stiff with their line delivery. Not to mention some of the dialogue doesn’t lend itself well on the screen, sounding either contrived or unnatural. Also, what kind of name for a virus is meanies? Couldn’t they have chosen a more scientific name or acronym? At least that way, I could take the virus more seriously. Just imagine if other virus-apocalypse films named their respective virus meanies.
The real Achilles' heel of the film is sadly the plot. Each of the stories are not bad in concept (except the last story, which just doesn’t fit in with this movie), but in execution leave a lot to be desired. They feel longer than the content in them would dictate and the extra time doesn’t add too much aside from the length. It might’ve been intended to bring in atmosphere to the film but it fails at that purely through the backgrounds never making a good illusion of the apocalypse. Doomsday Stories also manages to feel very listless in its presentation and at times somewhat confusing. The most notable example of this are the phone call scenes from Zorack’s past. In every scene, Zorack calls someone he knows and talks to them, before they die from the virus. However, the characters never seem to talk to each other, rather they talk at each other. The people who are called never address what Zorack is saying and he never seems to respond to what they say. What ends up happening is Zorack repeating himself, acting as if they didn't pick up even though they did. It feels like they shot Zorack’s scenes with the other person not picking up but changed their minds when they shot the other side of the call and then just forgot to reshoot the scenes.
Finally, the final story of the film is just bad. But it is bad for a very specific reason. That reason is that it doesn’t fit the film. The last story basically changes genres very suddenly and while the virus conflict in the film still matters in the end, it takes a backseat in what feels like another movie entirely. How this was even decided to be the final segment of the film is just baffling. And the segment when taken on its own has all of the same issues that the rest of the film has along with not fitting in with the rest of the film.
This is a film that could have been amazing to watch. It had the right idea in mind, but somewhere along the way, the execution simply fell flat. The acting, production design, sound quality, cinematography and last but not least, the story all could’ve had some major improvements. I respect the hell out of filmmakers who go out there and make what movies they want to, as making a movie in of itself is a very difficult task. As such, I really wanted to like this film, but I found it a tough watch with all its flaws on display. While I understand that this film had a small budget to work with, I’ve seen films with smaller budgets that made the most of their budget and felt larger than their actual production value. All-in-all, Doomsday Stories is a rather disjointed film riddled with poor acting, writing and direction.
Co-Written By: Owen Gonzalez