Science fiction and horror are perfect partners. Some of the most affective films of the last 30 years have used the fear of the unknown and the unquantifiable, the potential for humanity to be lost as futuristic progress overwhelms us, and the inevitability of self-destruction and cataclysm due to our meddling space, time, genetics and everyday life. Out of this realm of fearful futures and blood soaked techno-nightmares comes Apocalypse Kiss, a film that combines Science fiction dystopia and serial killer horror as an elusive serial killer, known as the Red Harvest, sees copycat crimes begin to erupt into the streets of his city, and is drawn into the hunt to restore his reputation while secretly assisting the very policeman hunting him, into stopping the copycats.

This fusing of science fiction and serial killer horror is a particularly novel, if not original approach, emphasising the devolving nature of society as the fear of apocalypse becomes almost a relief for a dystopia that is chronic and if anything, ready to finally die. Visually, the film is a blur of neon and noir stylisation, but rather than using in camera effects or focusing on a street level tone that suggests a world torn between future and past, like a ghost frozen between times, director Christian Grillo chooses to over saturate the world with, quite frankly cheap, looking CGI effects that simply do not hold up. Some work better than others, as sweeping aerial shots of the city are visually impressive at times, but other effects, such as a grid of sweeping lasers that scan the scene are too intrusive and become jarring. It could be argued that the artificiality of the film is a reflection of the artificiality of the world the film depicts, one that where meaning is devoid, and ideas are lost in the soup of human apathy. Yet, the poor mishandling of this message itself throughout the narrative and the abundance of shots that are designed around the spectacle of the effects makes this a somewhat fragile argument.

The film suffers from a tonal imbalance that reinforces the sense of misdirection and confused execution. At times, the excessive nature of the violence, characterisation and visual palette of the world pitches the film in the realm of the world of exploitation cinema, with morally sketchy lesbian killers cavorting in next to nothing, an OTT serial killer grandstanding about art and society as he prepares to slay his next victim, and gross sex obsessed guys out to get their kicks in a world gone mad. However, rather than focus on the exploitation elements that are clearly there, the filmmakers seem to want to add a touch of philosophical and social commentary, in a completely blunt nod to the film it most aspires in terms of its science-fiction aesthetic, Ridley Scott’s masterful neo-noir, Blade Runner. Yet in doing so, rather than work as a sort of ‘Faster Blade Runner, Kill Kill,’ it neither feels relevant as science fiction art, or brave and excessive enough to be a gritty future exploitation, thus rendering it as a confused failure in both terms.

The standout element of the film is perhaps the performance of cult character actor, Tom Atkins, of Halloween III and The Fog fame. As the world-weary detective, his role is limited and most definitely clichéd; however, Atkins brings a gruff charisma and a truthful sense of a browbeaten, seen it all, lived too long life, that is unquestionably the most honest and effective part of the entire film.

Apocalypse Kiss is a low budget thriller that is commendable for its ideas, bravado and Tom Atkins playing it noir, but its poor execution, artificiality and pacing mean this sci-fi thriller crashes down to earth, leaving only a pulpy mess rather than a pulp classic.

VERDICT: [rating=1]

About The Author

Matthew Hammond is a full time cinephile, specializing in cult, art house and 1980’s cinema. While film is his overwhelming passion, Matthew has been known to enjoy comic books, Sherlock Holmes stories and a good film related T-shirt. Feel free to email me with any questions or comments: mattpaul61@o2.co.uk