Tales from the Apocalypse (Movie Review)

Uncork’d Entertainment has compared their newly released Sci-Fi anthology Tales from the Apocalypse to 1982’s Creepshow which is arguably the best example of a compilation movie. It is big praise, though off the bat it is more comparable to Uncork’d Entertainment’s earlier release 5 Galaxies in 2019. Aside from both being sci-fi collections, they have also had multiple releases under different titles.

Tales from the Apocalypse / Uncork’d Entertainment (2023)

Some might recognize Tales from the Apocalypse better as Episodes from Apocalypse or Apocalypse: End of Everything, and they all feature the same five sci-fi shorts that involve everything from dimension-hopping AIs to a spaceship stranded on the precipice of a black hole. It sounds interesting enough to make its July 4, 2023, release on DVD and digital platforms sound tantalizing. But is it worth hopping into?

The first short, Alone, was originally released in 2020, and directed by William Hellmuth (The Hour After Westerly 2019, Drive All Night 2021). As the title suggests, engineer Kaya Torres (Stephanie Barkley: Confess 2017, Outpost 2023) has barely escaped the destruction of her research vehicle but is left adrift at the edge of a black hole. Her only company is Hammer (Thomas Wilson Brown: Silverado 1985, Honey I Shrunk the Kids 1989), a man who bonds with Torres over their different but equally doomed fates.

The short is essentially the equivalent of a “bottle” episode of a TV show, where the characters all interact on one set. Only Hammer is a voice call for most of it, so it is just Torres pottering around a nicely done escape ship set with some fancy space visuals outside. It is a bittersweet tale, as the two share their fears while trying to save themselves. Barkley and Brown bounce off of each other well too, and the direction is solid and convincing. Alone is a strong start with some neat Sci-fi twists in its tale.

Next up is Cradle, a 2016 short from Damon Duncan (The Changeover 2017, M3gan 2022). It is about Eade (Jacqueline Joe: Top of the Lake series, Power Rangers: Dino Fury series), a teenager who was born and raised on the titular spaceship Cradle. She and her dad Mark (Matthew Sunderland: Out of the Blue 2006, The Nightingale 2018) were about to return to Earth when an explosion wrecks the ship and injures her dad.

Tales from the Apocalypse / Uncork’d Entertainment (2023)

The ship’s computer, System (Rachel House: Moana 2016, Hunt for the Wilderpeople 2016), assumes control and seems dead set on leaving her father to die and for the ship to explode, so it is up to Eade to save the day. It is a step-up from Alone technically, with more intricate effects and camerawork. But it is not as strong in other departments, with a silly narrative twist that does not fit with the apocalyptic theming and an obnoxious, drum-heavy soundtrack.

2016’s Lunatique by Gabriel Kalim Mucci (The Moons 2020, Wasteland 3: Bison’s Meat Delivery 2020) brings the end of the world back as a survivor (Lila Guimarães: The Heart in my Mouth 2015, Bingo: The King of the Mornings 2017) struggles to get by in what used to be a city. Again, it is good technically, with set design and locales that resemble something from the Fallout games in greyscale. However, the short feels more like a pitch for a bigger project as there is little here than Guimarães in full costume wandering around, breathing heavily, and taking potshots at CGI.

New Mars, made in 2019 by Susie Jones (Bird Lady 2020), brings the color and dialogue back as an underground colony living on Mars hope to bring humanity back after Earth’s destruction by terraforming the Red Planet. They plan on running things according to science and logic, but colonists Venus 7 (Katie Simmons: Hello Au Revoir 2021) and Mars 3 (Levi Payne: Re: Tension 2019, Coronation Street series) form a more emotional bond. One backed by swelling string sections and piano chords when they are together.

The short has cheaper production compared to the others on offer and has rougher framing shots that could’ve done with a retake or more editing. It also loves its blue filters, perhaps added to make its offices and corridors look as underground as its caves. The performances are fine, though they are weaker compared to the other shorts. On the plus side its twist ending, while nearly identical to Cradle’s and just as silly, is better implemented.

Tales from the Apocalypse / Uncork’d Entertainment (2023)

Finally, 2018’s AI-pocalypse by Lin Sun (One Night in Chinatown 2020, Bloom of Youth 2021) rounds off the collection with a story about an AI called Sonia (Jiao Xu: CJ7 2008. Mulan: Legendary Warrior 2009) being forced away from her father figure Dr Stephen (John Henry Richardson: Where Is She Now? 2015, The Legend of Jack and Diane 2023) and made to travel to the 4th dimension to avert a looming crisis. It is a step back up from New Mars, showing more cash in its production, albeit a fairly standard Apple-esque one.

While anyone who has seen a robot Pinocchio story knows what to expect from the plot, as Dr. Stephen treats Sonia like a person, the military treats her like a piece of kit, and she’s left in the middle trying to figure out who and what she is at all. It is not a particularly strong take on the tale either, feeling like a collage of the best bits from a bigger film. Still, the effects are nice, and Xu gives an endearing performance as Sonia.

In the end, Tales from the Apocalypse is surprisingly consistent in quality for an anthology. Usually movies like 5 Galaxies, 2018’s Blood, Sweat and Terrors, and even the almighty Creepshow have some duffers that make its best shorts shine. Yet Tales from the Apocalypse is pretty much average all throughout, with its best shorts only a step ahead from the others, and the worst a step behind. Alone is the most watch-worthy, with the rest being harder to recommend. As such, Cryptic Rock gives Tales from the Apocalypse 3 out of 5 stars.

Tales from the Apocalypse / Uncork’d Entertainment (2023)

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