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Doomsdays
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by Jay Seaver

"The end is coming, so let's have us some laughs."
5 stars

SCREENED AT 2013 THE FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: "Doomsdays" has gags. Lots and lots of gags about a pair of guys who, figuring that the world is going to hell anyway, just walk around taking what they want as they go through a vacation town in upstate New York during March, camping and breaking into houses as opportunity arises. And most of them are darn funny, a crazy blend of nihilistic and innocent glee from characters that stars Justin Rice and Leo Fitzpatrick solidify almost instantaneously. And then it gets better.

Not necessarily much deeper right away, even though the movie starts out as something of a series of sketches; A date appears on screen, and then Dirty Fred (Rice) and his friend Bruho (Leo Fitzpatrick) break into someone's house, or make themselves at home afterward, or camp in between stops, a pair of thoroughly mismatched anarchists. They never mention why they're doing this until they bump into a couple new folks - Jaidon (Brian Charles Johnson), a teenager whose brother ditched him passed out and drawn on in the basement of a place the guys break into, and Reyna (Laura Campbell), a girl Dirty Fred hits it off with when they crash a party.

A sort of story does eventually develop, but writer/director never Eddie Mullins never particularly changes the way he goes about his business, making sure that even as he's getting the audience into his characters' heads, it's via weird, chaotic events played relatively deadpan. It's kind of a neat trick, actually, as the shift from rebellious absurdity to actions that have consequences comes quickly, and there's a definite change to the tenor of the movie, but the rhythms stay close enough to the same , as do the attitudes, that it works without feeling like it's sold what came before out.

And what came before is pretty darn funny - Mullins doesn't punt any segments, and he switches between slapstick surrealism, slow burns, and sudden violence that comes out of nowhere. Some segments are very dark, while others are built on the characters being practically giddy with the chance to just cut loose and live outside regular society, smashing things up as they do. Bits from earlier are revisited in just the right way to be funny a second time through. That sounds simple - just good jokes and some amusing performances - and it is. Damnably hard to do well, though, and first-time filmmaker (and former critic) Eddie Mullins manages it pretty well.

That's in large part thanks to a good cast, with the two main characters are kind of playing against type: Justin Rice has often played nice, introverted guys in mumblecore movies, but here he's a glib, rather smarmy fellow, able to deliver a line with charm and wit but also the right sort of detachment. Leo Fitzpatrick certainly has the look of a guy who has played a lot of thugs, so having him play Bruho as straight-edge and just bright enough to be riled up about how peak oil is going to bring civilization to its knees is a riot. Their shticks complement each other perfectly, and they both work very well with Johnson, who sells every peculiar bit of the eager-to-belong Jaidon. Campbell is a kick too - that she gets to play a relatively normal-seeming person at the start makes her later enthusiasm as she realizes how strange her new friends' lifestyle is a lot of fun.

I feel like I should dig in more, and come up with something about how its slacker anarchists represent something about the only sane way to look at today's world, but while that's probably there, the ultimate appeal is pretty simple: It's a funny, funny movie that manages to feel open-ended while still telling a satisfying story. It's a bit on the weird side, but it is going to delight some folks when it gets into general release.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=25370&reviewer=371
originally posted: 08/31/13 18:01:05
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2013 Fantasia International Film Festival For more in the 2013 Fantasia International Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2013 Denver Film Festival For more in the 2013 Denver Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2014 Boston Underground Film Festival For more in the 2014 Boston Underground Film Festival series, click here.

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Directed by
  Eddie Mullins

Written by
  Eddie Mullins

Cast
  Justin Rice
  Leo Fitzpatrick
  Brian Charles Johnson
  Laura Campbell



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