Featuring five chilling sci-fi shorts, “Tales From the Apocalypse” delivers strong visuals and great storytelling to keep viewers engaged.
Tales From the Apocalypse landed on digital on July 4, 2023. Read on to find out if you should Rent it, Stream it, or Skip it.
Anthology films are among my favorite to watch. I love them because they often have an emotional payoff, or at least you see someone getting their just desserts after committing some nefarious act. Though, it can be tricky to get the balance right. There’s an art to telling a potent and fulfilling story in a very short period of time, and you really have to stick the landing for these short tales of terror to work.
Tales From the Apocalypse is an anthology consisting of five stories, though the focus is less on horror and leans more into the realm of science fiction, which I happen to be a huge fan of. In a departure from typical anthology films, there is no unifying story to connect these individual segments. That means each story is independent of the others, and you’re really just watching a collection of horror shorts that must stand on their own strengths.
Each of the segments features a different artistic vision, and they all look really good. It’s evident that a great deal of attention and care was given to create something compelling.
Alone – Following an accident in space, Kaya Torres is left circling a black hole alone and with little hope of rescue. Reaching out into the endless void, she makes contact with Hammer, a cartographer who is marooned on a distant planet. As they continue, they realize they might not be from the same universe.
Cradle – A father and daughter on a manned deep space mission enter a desperate fight for survival following an accident that renders him near death. Through flashback, we learn that all is not as it appears, both with the mission and the foundation on which their relationship is built.
Lunatique – Set within a destroyed city, a lone soldier fights to survive in a deadly game of cat and mouse with an unknown hunter.
New Mars – A colony living underneath the Martian surface attempted to build a new society. Two individuals find, through their burgeoning love, that not everything is as it seems.
AI – apocalypse – A well-meaning scientist creates a physical manifestation of AI whose role is to discover how the future unfolds as the threat of a new world war becomes a frightening reality.
Alone starts us off with a strong two-hander, with a pilot whose escape pod is stuck adjacent to a black hole with no hope of rescue.
Blindly communicating into the void, she makes contact with Hammer, another marooned on a nearby planet.
This short manages to squeeze a lot into the 15 or so minutes they have, with Steph Barkley as Kaya Torres doing all of the heavy lifting to keep you engaged. The EFX is top-notch, and the pay-off, although foreshadowed, still packs a punch and sets us up nicely for the next one.
Staying with the one-scene approach, Cradle widens things slightly as it gives us two actors to bounce off each other within the largely claustrophobic ship they inhabit.
A devastating accident puts the father at death’s door, leaving the 14-year-old daughter trying to keep them both alive whilst searching for answers about herself and her mother. In constantly searching and digging, she finds that her relationship is not what she thought it was and that her situation is worse than imagined.
This one felt a bit too similar to the first short. But I offer full props to Jaqueline Joe, who plays Eade with a strong and unbending will to discover the truth about her life, no matter what the cost. The end piece settles for an ambiguous tone, and it felt like this one suffered from trying to shoehorn too much into its short runtime. However, the entire short looks fantastic, and the final shots are suitably dark, serving as a great segue into the third short.
Lunatique begins with a pan across a destroyed city with what looks like radioactive ash falling.
The way they portray this apocalyptic vista is stunning, and they carry this across into every scene they film.
It’s a wordless story, with the lone survivor (Lila Guimarães) living a wasteland version of groundhog day: training, eating, cleaning, and feeding her caged raccoon. You get a real sense of the crippling loneliness and fear as she suits up to venture outside. We follow her point of view, throwing into the action similar to a first-person shooter, with restricted vision and loud breathing as she acquires her target. At the climax, we leave her to her fate, taking one last look at her home as her caged animal tries to escape this suffocating place.
A visual standout, the filmmakers cleverly keep the hunter in shadows to maximize its impact when you finally do see it.
It’s a brave effort, with no attempt to explain the circumstances behind the survivor’s situation. This short manages to do what it needs to without overdoing it; it’s efficient, and the ending is effective.
New Mars takes us to a newly established colony, deep underground beneath the barren and incredibly dangerous Mars landscape.
This one centers on the building relationship between Venus 7 and Mars 3 and how they are slowly questioning their lords and masters and society in general. Like the other stories, There is no exposition regarding why they are there as we simply drop into their daily life as if we’re a part of it.
New Mars is far more dialogue-driven, and we get much more out of the limited time onscreen.
However, it is immediately obvious what the conceit of the short is, especially when you see the cracks starting to form in how Venus 7 views the state and its rules on arranged marriage.
The ending, although we have seen it many times in other anthologies, is still handled extremely well, and the emotion that Venus 7 sheds at the end is almost palpable.
As for the final tale, AI – pocalypse deals with the question of what sets us apart from AI. As it unfolds, you can make a pretty good judgment on how it will turn out as it hits many familiar beats. We get a creation made in the image of a lost loved one, military meddling to gain that upper hand, and a proper comeuppance that is tempered by the answer to the question posed.
Despite that familiarity, this story is well written, and it looks amazing, with just enough FX to keep you engaged in the unfolding narrative. Like New Mars, it does telegraph its ending, but that’s really my only gripe.
On the whole, Tales From the Apocalypse is a solid collection of well-written and well-directed stories.
Though made on a smaller budget, I was impressed by the strength of the visuals, with each story having a unique aesthetic and identity that helped make it memorable.