Shot in 2018 and given a festival run under the title Black Flowers, Atomic Apocalypse is a one of the stranger recent end of the world films. Writer/director Martin Gooch (After Death, The Gatehouse) mixes action scenes, horror and absurdist images out of Richard Lester’s The Bed Sitting Room into an interesting if slightly overlong film.
Kate (Krista DeMille, 21st Century Demon Hunter), her husband Sam (Ron Roggé, Frankenstein) and their daughter Suzi (Andrea Sweeney Blanco) are on the beach enjoying a holiday at the beach. One that’s suddenly ruined by a mushroom cloud off in the distance. Jump ahead to “Day 559” and the family is running from some armed goons. Sam takes a bullet but manages to keep going.
They think they’ve gotten a break when they meet Joe (Jesús Lloveras) who claims to know the location of a rescue bunker, Salvation. However, Sam soon winds up dead. And not long after Kate wakes up from a drugged sleep to find Joe has run off with Suzi. She’s not about to let him away with that.
The world Kate journeys across is full of dangerous types. Scavengers, cannibals, even a forest ranger (Neil Dickson) gone insane from the loneliness. Atomic Apocalypse isn’t quite the film that the poster implies, but there is plenty of action.
What sets Atomic Apocalypse apart, however, is the bizarre interludes along the way. A cult pulling The Icon (Domenica Cameron-Scorsese, daughter of Martin) on a wheeled ladder towards a distant mountain. The knight on horseback who comes charging out of the mist. Or DJ Apocalypso (William Mark McCullough) and his band. They see the end of the world as an excuse for an endless party. And there is a mid-credits shot that pays tribute to Roger Corman’s Day The World Ended.
There’s also a less humorous, but striking, scene in which a gas mask-wearing Kate flees through a toxic marsh. The setting with its clouds of gas, masked, armed and occasionally uninformed denizens is strongly evocative of footage from World War I.
There’s something I found interesting, Atomic Apocalypse is about a search for a bunker known as Salvation. The main story begins on Day 559 and continues from there as we see Day 660, 662, etc. Make of it what you will, but it didn’t feel like a coincidence to me.
Closer in style to The Outer Wild or a scaled-down version of The Road than Mad Max, Atomic Apocalypse does keep things interesting for the most part. At 108 minutes though it could use a few trims. Or maybe have replaced some of the unneeded dialogue with more information on the odd black flowers that gave the film its original title. We know they’re a mutation and contain a substance that can kill or cure you, but not much else.
Atomic Apocalypse is available on disc and digital from High Octane Pictures. You can check for more information and theatrical screenings on the film’s Facebook page.