Friday, July 8, 2011

Revelation: Apocalypse II

Welcome to the second exciting installment of the Apocalypse quartet, brought to you by Peter & Paul Lalonde and the gang at Cloud Ten Pictures. This is that rare case of a sequel being better than the parent film. Sadly, in this case, that's like saying an unwashed pair of gym socks smells slightly better than an outhouse in summer.

I do have to give the Lalondes a bit of credit, though. This isn't an everyday sequel that focuses solely on returning characters. Leigh Lewis returns as Helen Hannah, but her character merely plays a supporting role here. Nevertheless, the film does take place after the events of the first Apocalypse, including the Rapture.

Instead, this film focuses on Earl Stone (Jeff Fahey), an officer of the One Nation Earth (O.N.E.) police force. At first I thought his name was Phil, then it sounded like Earl, and then the end credits revealed his name to be Thorold. I'm going to stick with Earl. So there. Earl figured "we don't need church to make us a family," making it clear which side of the Rapture coin he was on. When the Rapture came and took his wife and kid, poor Earl was LEFT BEHIND.

Worse, Earl is stuck living in a world ruled by Franco Macaluso (Nick Mancuso, taking over the role from Sam Bornstein), the dude who says he's a god but is really the AntiChrist. Everyone else believes Macaluso's claims of godhood, even Earl's partner (whose name I didn't catch, so I'll call him Bud), but Earl himself thinks this self-proclaimed messiah is a con man. You see, Earl stopped believing in anything after his mom died of cancer.

When a school bus blows up, Earl and Bud investigate and find evidence that leads them to a Haters' hideout (Haters being the post-Rapture term for Christians). The Haters claim they were set up. Bud is about to go all G20 on their asses, but Earl steps in and stops him. One wild-eyed Hater named Selma Davis hands Earl a secret disk, which turns out to be this movie's McGuffin.

Earl and Bud keep searching the area, and catch two of the AntiChrist's troopers red-handed with a bomb detonator. One of those troopers is none other than the villainous Len Parker, once again 'played' by David Roddis. Parker shoots Bud and Earl, then leaves by walking straight through a wall like a ghost (when did he get that power? He didn't have it in the last movie). Bud dies, but Earl Stone survives.

Earl finds help in the form of wheelchair-bound nerd Willie Spinno, who takes one look at the detonator used to destroy the school bus and declares it to be the work of O.N.E.. He also talks about how he designed a virtual reality program for an upcoming event called the Day of Wonders. He takes particular interest in the secret disk, and recognizes it to be related to the VR program. To crack it, and to keep Earl safe, Willie takes him to the super secret hideout of his stepsister. Who just happens to be recurring Apocalypse hero Helen Hannah! She runs the resistance with two friends: a fat guy whose name I didn't catch, and a blind woman named Cindy.

Meanwhile, all is not well at villain HQ. Sure, there are lots of dastardly deeds going on - we see a man turn his son in to the O.N.E. police because he caught him praying - but Parker isn't satisfied. It turns out the secret disk contains stuff that could throw a medium-sized wrench into the AntiChrist's Day of Wonders plan. Parker learns that Earl Stone is still alive, and that he has that very disk in his possession! "I want Stone," Parker says, "and I want him dead." Having gotten that out of his system, Parker has a go at Selma the wild-eyed Christian, trying to make her renounce Jesus. It's a tough job, being the AntiChrist's stooge. Gotta blow off a little steam somehow.

Back at 'Hater' HQ, Willie and Earl work hard to crack the secrets of the Secret Disk while Helen Hannah does her absolute best to annoy everyone around her. She was an insufferable know-it-all in the first movie, but she takes it up a notch or twelve here. She's got a comeback for anything: "Whatever it takes, I'm gonna find 'em," Earl says, referring to his need to find his family, to which Helen retorts "You'll have to find God first." Earl mentions he doesn't believe in God. "He's still God," Helen replies, "whether you believe in him or not." In fact, when both Earl and Willie express their preference for Atheism, Helen settles for "You're wrong. You're both wrong."

My absolute favourite? "Leave this to the professionals," Willie tells her, referring to his ability to crack the Secret Disk. "Professionals built the Titanic," Helen scolds in reply. "Amateurs built the Ark." I cannot imagine an eternity in flames being much worse than five minutes alone with her!

In spite of Helen's idiotic bon-mots, Willie eventually does crack the disk. It contains a virtual reality program, an empty white space one sees if one puts on a VR helmet. Further hacking reveals a 'line of code' that makes the blank space more interesting. Willie finds a guillotine, and cuts his finger on the blade. When he takes of the helmet, he discovers is finger is cut in real life! It's Freddy Kruger physics, people.

Somehow this all ties into the Day of Wonders, which the heroes decide they have to stop. Willie cooks up a plan to sneak Earl into Bad Guy HQ disguised as a janitor, where he can upload a virus that will sabotage the AntiChrist's plan. While Earl is on his way, Helen puts two and two together and figures out how the Day of Wonders will work; when people put on VR helmets and enter the blank VR world, they'll be shown the thing they most desire... and get tricked into taking the Mark of the Beast! Sadly, she doesn't figure this out in time to save Willie and Cindy; they put on their helmets and meet Franco Macaluso, who cures Cindy's blindness and restores Willie's ability to walk in exchange for their devotion to him. Willie and Cindy turn evil and shoot Helen's fat friend, but Helen herself escapes and rushes to help Earl.

Earl gets tricked into putting a VR helmet on, and Macaluso offers him his wife and daughter in exchange for his eternal worship. Earl isn't fooled, so Macaluso sticks him in the guillotine and prepares to lop off his head. Earl gets Saved, literally and figuratively, by converting to Christianity before the blade comes down, and then Helen Hannah yanks the helmet off his head. Earl inserts the virus program, but before it can upload the bad guys arrive. Parker takes Earl and Helen to the incinerator to burn with the other Haters, while Willie and Cindy are left to stop the virus upload.

Naturally, God intervenes and saves the viewer from a satisfying ending. Nothing Willie and Cindy do can stop the virus program from loading; they pull out every plug, then smash the computer to bits, all to no avail. At the same time, Parker stares in astonishment through the incinerator door window as Helen, Earl, Selma and other Haters stand unharmed in the flames. Parker decides to take care of them personally, so he opens the incinerator door and gets incinerated. And the O.N.E. building burns down. And the Day of Wonders is stopped. But our heroes are perfectly safe, thanks entirely to divine intervention.

Andre Van Herdeen takes over directing duties on this film, and would go on to direct several more Cloud Ten films (including the remaining two Apocalypse sequels). He brings a lot more cinematic style to the table, and delivers a much more entertaining product than his predecessor Peter Gerretsen managed with the original film. No reliance on stock footage here! Sadly, that's not enough to make Revelation any good. It's just a lot less bad. With cartoon villains, unlikable heroes and an awful script, all this film can do is supply safe entertainment for true believers while offering no chance of being taken seriously by a secular audience.

Likely To Convert - 0
Production Values - 2
Acting/Direction - 4
Likely To Be Sat Through - 3
Unintentional Hilarity - 7
Level of Disturbing or Offensive Content - 0

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