If you’re anywhere near the Chicagoland area and want to have some genre fun this coming week, you should definitely be hitting up the Cinepocalypse Film Festival at the historic and beautiful Music Box Theater. I attended the opening festivities and the world premiere of Mike P. Nelson‘s The Domestics and had a fantastic time. Hosted by founder and artistic director, Josh Goldbloom, Cinepocalypse is in its sophomore run and looks to be even better than it’s inaugural run. Boasting nine different premieres from genre films this year, Cinepocalypse is already a favorite in the festival film circuit. Co-sponsored by yours truly (Bloody Disgusting, duh), you know we wouldn’t back anything we didn’t think was worthy of your hard-earned dollars. I mean…the night even ended with a surprise screening of Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, with a special and personalized video introduction from Alex Winter himself!
From a great on-stage introduction from Goldbloom, oozing with his passion for the genre, I knew I wouldn’t be disappointed with the week to come. Joining him on stage was the director of The Domestics, Mike P. Nelson, to give us a few words of encouragement before our viewing of his first feature film.
In The Domestics…
“In a terrifying post-apocalyptic world inhabited by gangs divided into deadly factions, a husband and wife race desperately across the countryside in search of safety and must work together as they are pushed to the breaking point in order to survive.”
Soft spoiler warning: Right off the bat, you see that MGM-revived, iconic Orion Pictures logo and I knew I was in for a treat. Starring Kate Bosworth (Straw Dogs, Superman Returns, 21) and Tyler Hoechlin (MTV’s Teen Wolf, Fifty Shades Freed) as Mark and Nina West, The Domestics starts off with a glimpse of how civilization essentially crumbled, as the government turned on their own people in a Purge-like, dog-eat-dog, let-the-people-fend-for-themselves reality. They helped wipe out most of the population and left the rest to their own devices. This is actually a strong reflection of the climate we live in now, where everyone has become paranoid of the opposite or even their own political factions. Although they don’t talk much about the event that changed the world much, it isn’t needed to tell this story. At the heart of this film is a story of love and triumph between two estranged lovers. All of the extraneous exposition that some post-apocalyptic movies will shove down your throats isn’t present here and really helps you get involved in the relationship being presented.
You’re going to hear all of the cliche post-apocalyptic comparisons to Doomsday, Mad Max, and The Walking Dead. I would agree that there are influences from all these in color palette, theme, and tone, but I think it also brings its own style to the table. There is a heavy resemblance to the storyline of The Warriors as this couple is just trying to make it home, while surviving the gang-laden wastelands that has become Wisconsin. There is even a radio DJ playing in the background that acts as a pseudo-narrator as they make their way from obstacle to the next.
There is also a feminist undertone that slowly builds throughout the film, as Nina gains courage and strength to help aid in their own survival. It doesn’t feel forced or exploited to the point where they are trying to shove an agenda down your throat. It’s done tastefully and touched upon just enough for introspection. In this world, women are seen as a commodity to be stolen, bought, and traded. Nina wasn’t about to let herself become a product of the times. Again, as a reflection of the times we live in, it’s cool to see another take on a strong female character shine and stand up for herself.
There is plenty of action and gore to keep the genre fan satisfied and exclaiming “OH SHIT” at the screen. The action sequences keep you on the edge of your seat and they used every bit of their budget to make sure you stay entertained. I loved the costumes and the different gang factions that ruled the new world. Everyone had their own thing going on without being blended into one big mess, not knowing who is who. The only downfall of the movie is that the chemistry between Bosworth and Hoechlin never fully developed. Even as their characters grew and they struggled to keep their marriage intact, they still felt like strangers to me in the end.
The film also really would’ve benefited from a central villain for us to focus on. Throughout the story, the villainy was a baton being passed from one gang to the next, but I wanted one central character for the couple to focus on and eventually overcome. While the story does get a bit repetitive, it is wrapped up with a great Western showdown in a Midwestern town. With guns blazing, blood splattering and explosions, it draws you back in and punches you in the face.
All in all, this was a great first feature effort from director Mike P. Nelson and I can’t wait to see what he has in store for us next. If you have a chance to see this film, go see it. You won’t be disappointed. It was also a great way to kick off Cinepocalypse 2018, which is sure to be a rad week-long celebration of genre films. For tickets and the full lineup of films and festival activities, click here.