One of my favourite fantasy movies of the last two decades is the Russian release, Night Watch, by the writer-director Timur Bekmambetov. Loosely based on a successful 1998 novel of the same name by Sergei Lukyanenko, the 2004 production had a surprisingly strong impact outside of the Russian Federation where dedicated genre audiences were unused to seeing the popular literary category of the “urban supernatural” on the big screen. Unfortunately the modest hit was followed by a rather poorer sequel, Day Watch, in 2006, pretty much halting the cinematic sub-genre in its tracks (Hollywood had produced the similarly themed Constantine in 2005, with an equivalent lack of success and some hysterical criticism from the fans of the original Hellblazer graphic novel by Alan Moore and Stephen R. Bissette).
I was reminded of the above theatrical releases while watching this recent dark fantasy short film, Apocalypse Now Now, available on YouTube and Vimeo. Technically it is a “proof of concept” teaser based an acclaimed horror book by the South African author, Charlie Human, the first in his Baxter Zevcenko series of novels. The blurb for the opening edition reads:
Baxter Zevcenko’s life is pretty sweet. As the 16-year-old kingpin of the Spider, his smut-peddling schoolyard syndicate, he’s making a name for himself as an up-and-coming entrepreneur. Profits are on the rise, the other gangs are staying out of his business, and he’s going out with Esme, the girl of his dreams.
But when Esme gets kidnapped, and all the clues point towards strange forces at work, things start to get seriously weird. The only man drunk enough to help is a bearded, booze-soaked, supernatural bounty hunter that goes by the name of Jackson ‘Jackie’ Ronin.
Plunged into the increasingly bizarre landscape of Cape Town’s supernatural underworld, Baxter and Ronin team up to save Esme. On a journey that takes them through the realms of impossibility, they must face every conceivable nightmare to get her back, including the odd brush with the Apocalypse.
Watching the seven-minute clip, all I can say is that this is a feature film I’d love to see in the cinema some day. Though preferably well away from the participation of any Hollywood studio!