Doomsday Stories (2023)

Rating: C+

Dir: Derek Braasch, Marcelo Fabani, Phil Herman, James Panetta, Joel D. Wynkoop 
Star: Phil Herman, Justin Bauer, Debbie D, Joel D. Wynkoop

This is from the same people who brought us the Horrortales 666 franchise of microbudget anthologies. When we last left it, the protagonist of Horrortales.666 Part 3 was being abducted by extra-terrestrials, but Herman and his crew opted to go in a different direction for their next film. It’s a bit of a shame: as I write this, the military are shooting down UFOs left, right and centre, so I’d have been up for an alien invasion movie. I guess, the post-apocalyptic theme you’d expect from the title might not be too far off current events either. It’s still an anthology, though with a running time of 122 minutes, is quite the chonker.

Events take place after a series of epidemics have reduced humanity to a tiny fraction of its previous population. One of the few survivors is Zorack (Herman), who reads stories from a journal he took off a woman he killed, as well as remembering his sister’s fate. That’s your wraparound for the chapters that follow. We begin with A Broken Promise, in which Rick (Bauer) wanders the post-epidemic landscape, seeking to fulfill a vow he made to his late wife. Then there’s Bomb Threats, where a woman (Debbie D) seeks refuge with a stranger, only to find herself in worse peril. Next up is Forever Man, about a plan to use the population as organ donors. And finally, in 187 Times, James Kirk (Wynkoop – and, yes, they acknowledge the character’s name!) tries to use time-travel to fix the past and save his wife.

The stories here are all interesting ones; however, it doesn’t feel like they come from the same universe, as they should given their source. In some, the diseases are hardly mentioned, while in others they’re the focus. My favorite was likely 187 Times, since I’m a sucker for a good temporal paradox. This makes a good cautionary tale, about the potential perils of trying to change things, and causing more problems that you solve. Its tongue is in cheek, and that helps sell the concept. Annoyingly, the audio levels were all over the place: I had to have the remote control close to hand, and keep adjusting the volume for comfort.

Generally though, it felt as if this was a little more technically sound than its predecessors, with a couple of shots which were genuinely impressive. I don’t know what the budgets were, yet it feels like all the film-makers were intent on squeezing out as much value as possible. As ever, you need a tolerance – actually, make that love – for this kind of thing. No-one’s going to mistake it for The Last of Us, to be clear, and there are times when the limitations are obvious. For instance, some performances are more “enthusiastic amateur”: I’ll mention no names. There’s also the inevitable variation which comes with the anthology format. Yet the ideas which underlie the stories are sound, and that’s a significant part of the battle.

Doomsday Stories is available to pre-order for $20 now. Probably easiest to send Phil a message through Facebook.