Every day, Watch This offers staff recommendations inspired by a new movie coming out that week. This month: The A.V. Club atones for its sins of omission, recommending the best movies of the year that we didn’t review.
The first season of AMC’s Fear The Walking Dead was rarely as strong as its parent show, but it did feature one great scene early on, where a savvy teen named Tobias raided his high school’s pantry, anticipating that the zombie outbreak was about to blow up into a pandemic. In every post-apocalyptic novel, comic, TV show, and movie, the main goal is to find shelter and resources—preferably before anyone else can. The survivalist fantasy at the root of the genre’s popularity is the idea that if we were pushed to the brink, we could find a well-stocked hideout and nestle in. That’s one of the major appeals too of writer-director Eddie Mullins’ dry, spare indie comedy Doomsdays. The movie follows two young burnouts who roam through the Catskills, breaking into vacation homes and swiping all they can, so they can make it through the end-times. The apocalypse hasn’t occurred yet in Doomsdays, and there’s no immediate sign that it’s about to. But why wait until it’s too late?
Leo Fitzpatrick plays Bruho, the pair’s reticent leader, who sincerely believes that society is about to hit “peak oil,” followed by total collapse. Justin Rice plays Dirty Fred, an incorrigible slacker and libertine who mainly joins Bruho because he likes the idea of living inside of other people’s homes and eating their food. For roughly the first third of Doomsdays, Mullins constructs a series of vignettes of Bruho and Dirty Fred sowing mild anarchy across a small swath of rural New York, and almost getting caught. And it takes a while to figure out exactly what’s going on, because Mullins initially aims for something willfully off-kilter. The film has a comic sensibility reminiscent of Down By Law and Withnail And I—two movies that Mullins has directly cited as influences—with shameless misbehavior caught in long, static takes, always keeping any violence or action at a distance.
Doomsdays does eventually develop a sort of plot, when the guys pick up a couple of disciples: a local loser named Jaidon (Brian Charles Johnson) and an arty gal named Reyna (Laura Campbell). As their band expands, Bruho and Dirty Fred each try to explain—and codify—their very different reasons for scrounging around, and the fundamental rift between them is exposed. Meanwhile, the haplessness of Jaidon and the sunniness of Reyna alters the dynamic in such a way that the original duo’s mission no longer seems as righteous. Even as all of these changes are happening, though, Mullins seems less committed to working the characters into a story as he is in understanding them deeply, and fitting them into a milieu. Doomsdays’ main vision is of rootless youngsters who see no possibility that they could ever afford the life of idle luxury they crave. They assume their best hope is worldwide disaster. And if none’s in the offing, they’ll just pretend it’s already happened.
Availability: Doomsdays is currently streaming on Netflix and can be rented or purchased digitally from Amazon.