Thanks to the fine folks at the upcoming Philadelphia Film Festival/Cinefest 09 we’re going to be running a ton of early reviews from their Danger After Dark program, as well as some other of their genre films. For tickets and schedule information check out their official site.
I love a good apocalyptic film. It’s only when faced with incredible stress that you can see what people really are like, what their true nature is, and what better way to do that than the end of the world? It’s why zombie films are so popular- everyone wants to see what they’d do in that situation, if they’d be the hero, standing up and protecting their fellow man when the world has gone nuts. Then of course there’s also the question of what you’d do if you had a time limit on the rest of your life? It’s why ‘Midnight Sun’ is probably my favorite Twilight Zone episode- as a kid I’d lay awake at night terrified, thinking of what I would do in that position. Would I stay in my house, try and live my life while civilization fell apart and death loomed overhead? Would I just go nuts and take my life? Would I pack my bags and run to attempt to escape the inevitable?
Before the Fall (aka Tres Dias, I’m not sure why they’d change the name and possibly get it confused with Napola) has a similar premise. A small town in southern Spain hears the news that a massive asteroid is on its way to collide with the Earth in three days’ time. They make the announcement after the events of an alternate Armageddon, as world leaders have already made multiple attempts to destroy the thing or at least veer it off course, but they’ve all failed. Now they’re notifying the world that they’re doomed and are just hoping people stay calm.
So when chaos erupts in the streets it’s completely to be expected.
Our hero Ale is living with his mom, who is already (of course) terrified by what’s going on, but is even more scared when she hears on the news that the nearby prisons were being overrun after the guards abandoned their stations. This wouldn’t sound like such a bad thing considering the circumstances but Ale’s brother Tomas helped put one of their more notorious residents away years and years ago. That man was a serial killer who had vowed revenge on the kid for stopping his work and getting him arrested. Ale thinks his mom’s crazy- why would anyone try to hurt them when the end of the world is on the way? Wouldn’t he have better things to do, like find a woman and get to making babies for the last time? Ale is a little pissed to hear about this either way, because his brother’s actions made him a hero in their town, and overshadowed any achievements poor Ale ever attained. (Do you smell a character who has to overcome his hurdles and stand up for himself? You know you do!)
They go to hole up at Tomas’ house in a pretty remote spot in the country and find his four children awaiting his return, unaware of the events going on. Ale and his mother decide not to tell the kids, and after a little bit of waiting and drama between everyone Ale soon finds out that he probably should have listened to his mom about that psychopath.
So yes, the film turns out to be both an apocalyptic thriller and a slasher flick. The former portion is great- it’s frightening, realistic, and drudges up all the right emotions in you. The sad thing is that the serial killer portion of the movie is easily the least interesting, while it’s also the one the film focuses more of its attention on. Like many characters in the film note- there’s a helluva lot going on outside in the world. It’s cool to take time and single out one small story from all of the world’s panic and a twisted killer might very well want to finish where he left off, but they turn this into as average a slasher movie as there is. The killer’s not even very memorable and worst of all is that the other characters make the usual absolutely idiotic slasher film decisions. It’s magnified even more by the events going on in the world. When society breaks down and the world’s about to end, I’m not sure about the rest of you but I’m going to do the best to protect mine and my own, whatever that takes. If there’s ever time for vigilantism, this is it!
It’s a beautiful film and they use the location fantastically- it’s a far cry from the usual big-city chaos that we’re used to seeing in disaster films. But there’s a lot of wasted potential here. They could have done something interesting here to show how Ale seemingly completely forgets about his inevitable demise in order to combat this killer, or put a little bit more of a backstory behind the guy and why he does what he does, but we get nothing.
As a slasher fan I found that section fairly average without many surprises, but Before the Fall is still a fascinating movie, one that you’ll want to keep watching to the end to see what happens. It’s just a shame that it’s a slasher movie with a dash of apocalyptic thriller thrown in, rather than the other way around.