Giant monsters can turn up in the most unexpected of places. A case in point is Matt Burkett’s short (it runs for just six minutes), award-winning Apollyon. The film’s plot is obscure and hard to unravel, not much helped by a ponderous – one might even use the dread word pretentious – voice over (by Ciara Davie) but it seems to have something to do with a young woman, Jade (Becky Jo Harris ) who is struggling to survive in a world where society has collapsed and chaos reigns. Masked gangs roam the streets, killing victims based on their skin colour or sexual orientation. Among their victims are Jade’s family and as she wanders out in the countryside, seemingly untouched by the mayhem in a state of shock, she’s visited by a huge, bat-winged creature she identifies as Apollyon. If she gives herself and her hatred to the creature it promises it will help her take her revenge. Becoming part of the monster she descends upon Tokyo, laying waste to the city.
Quite why Jade/Apollyon decides to take out its rage on Tokyo isn’t at all clear but the creature’s brief climactic orgy of destruction is rather well done. Burkett, such a fan of “tokusatsu“, Japanese films that rely heavily of special effects that he created an online show, Monstrosities, dedicated to them, gave up his job of 13 years to return to his abandoned film course, studying editing and among the results was Apollyon, a film one suspects didn’t have the highest of budgets. So that he was able to stage Apollyon’s attack on Tokyo as well as he did – it isn’t perfect; some of the effects don’t convince – is remarkable.
We are told at the climax that Apollyon is the Greek name for Abaddon, the Hebrew name for an angel that stands over the abyss (it’s also a word used to describe a place of destruction). In The Bible, the Book of Revelation mentions an angel named Abaddon who leads a huge swarm of locusts and is referred to as either “The Angel of Death” or “Destroyer”. The film leaves it unclear if its giant monster is meant to be the Biblical creature. Nor is it clear if it targeted Jade because of her intense grief or because of her complacency – as the world collapsed around her she convinced herself that “we would be OK,” a repeated mantra that Apollyon uses against her, telling her as it possesses her body that “she will be OK.”
Blessed with an excellent soundtrack by Joe Pfeifer and Billy Horn, some striking visuals and a sketchily drawn background that would benefit enormously from the film being expanded to feature length, Apollyon is hard to fathom but undeniably hypnotic and compelling. It’s the sort of short film that you may not be able to explain but which gets under your skin and worries away at you for some time afterwards. Burkett also made the short Legna XX (2010) that apparently pits a soldier against supernatural forces, and has made a number of appearances as Apollo Z. Hack, a fictional reviewer and “tokusatsu” fan who also appears in a number of short films.
At the time of review, Apollyon is available for free to subscribers to Amazon’s video streaming service.