Thursday, May 30, 2013

SyFy vs. The Mynd: Doomsday Prophecy (2011)

Mysterious writer of authentically prophetic books Rupert Crane (Matthew Walker) mysteriously calls in proof-reader Eric Fox (A.J. Buckley) to personally fetch the manuscript for his first book in decades. Now, Eric has no connection to the man he knows of, and really finds the whole idea rather bizarre, but when his publishing boss calls, he has to go. And his publishing boss very much wants to keep Crane happy.

Independently, Crane also summons archaeologist Brook Calvin (Jewel Staite), for equally mysterious reasons to do with her expertise regarding Moai heads. Brook doesn't actually want to go, either, but when Crane informs her "New York is next", and the city is in fact hit by a highly destructive earthquake just shortly after the same happened at the Black Sea, curiosity wins out over scepticism. Note to self: earthquakes are generally a good way to convince people of your prophetic powers.

When Eric and - very shortly thereafter - Brook arrive, they find Crane dead. The old man has left a curious rod whose touch induces painful visions in Eric, as well as some camcorder messages. It seems the earthquakes are only just the beginning of the End of the World™, and only Eric and Brook can stop it. As if that wasn't enough pressure, the two have also inherited another of Crane's problems: the government is after the prophetic powers, and while lead agent Garcia (Bruce Ramsay) is really rather more interested in saving the world, too, his boss General Slate (Alan Dale) only wants the rod (to become the master of the post-apocalyptic world, it seems, which only goes to show what too many Italian Mad-Max-alikes will do to a man), and is willing to have everyone between him and his goal killed.

Until now, my look at the joys and horrors of SyFy original movies has concentrated on the Channel's monster movies, but there are of course also a number of more or less absurd disaster movies in its repertoire. In truth, Doomsday Prophecy isn't really so much a disaster movie as a woo-woo-based conspiracy thriller.

Realistically speaking, the End of the World™ isn't really in the budget for a SyFy movie, so director and co-writer Jason Bourque probably aims for a more achievable goal with this approach. It's not that the film doesn't feature any of the promised disasters at all: there a some short, cost-conscious yet pretty effective scenes of destruction (something I think even cheapest CGI effects are actually good at), but those scenes are there to motivate the conspiracy/chase plot, and do not stand at the movie's centre.

This does of course lead to the very low budget movie idea that a series of world-spanning catastrophes (caused by a dark star aligning with the solar system's equator, by the way - stop giggling) can best be solved by characters driving and walking through the countryside of British Columbia, but in a film world where there's a hidden global defence mechanism consisting of Moai heads situated somewhere in British Columbia, that's just logical.

How much enjoyment a given viewer will get out of Doomsday Prophecy will most certainly be based on her tolerance for that sort of bullshit when it is presented as a sub-X-Files conspiracy plot (at least the evil general is a right-winger), and some science so ropey the script could have used a bit more duct tape. I find myself quite at home in this sort of affair, smiling delightedly at the film's earnest presentation of the most hackneyed tropes (you bet there's a knowledgeable Native Canadian played by good old Gordon Tootoosis in his final film role helping our heroes out), and nodding with approval at the rather expert way Bourque manages to give his global catastrophe via British Columbia enough reach to feel mildly exciting.

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