I watched Chrysalis as part of 2015’s Indy Film Fest at the IMAX theater in the Indiana State Museum on July 17th. You can find more of ObsessiveViewer.com’s coverage of the festival here.
From writer Ben Kurstin and director John Klein, Chrysalis is a post-apocalyptic movie in the vain of 28 Days Later set in 2038. In this future where people infected with a virus attack what remains of humanity, Josh (Cole Simon) and Penelope (Sara Gorsky) roam the wasteland for shelter and food. When the couple take in lone survivor Abira (Tanya Thai McBride), their lives get suddenly get more complicated, throwing their survival into question.
The movie was funded by a Kickstarter campaign and filmed almost entirely in Gary, Indiana. Chrysalis boasts an impressive aesthetic of rundown environments, desolate cityscapes, and grimy locations. Intermittently throughout the movie, the characters are attacked by the infected in sequences that yield some impressive gore considering the movie’s limited budget. The budget seems to force the camera to work around displaying outright violence. This is a bit jarring in a couple places but the filmmakers make up for it by using the post-action gore to great effect. The makeup department did a wonderful job with the carnage displayed in Chrysalis.
The film follows the 28 Days Later approach to infection and the post-apocalyptic setting. The filmmakers inject some originality into the premise, particularly in how the backstory of Abira is divulged. But for the most part, this is a movie that doesn’t just pay homage to other movies, but follows their lead most of the time. There are some scenes that stand out from the crowd and inject originality in Chrysalis’ premise. But other scenes merely telegraph the endgame of the story.
For all the clichés in this movie there is plenty of engaging characterization. We’re immediately introduced to Pen and Josh, but it isn’t until they’re established that we’re shown they are romantically involved. I won’t spoil how their romantic relationship is introduced to the audience, but it surprised me and gave the couple (and Penelope in particular) raw emotion that made them easy to root for. Another element to their dynamic that I appreciated was that they aren’t the typical strong survivors. Pen and Josh are emotionally troubled when they kill infected people. Despite lasting in the wasteland for a couple of decades, they aren’t hardened survivors. They have their faults, their struggles, and it makes them all the more endearing.
The score of Chrysalis (by Darren Callahan) is the best thing the movie has going for it. The soundtrack reminded me of something I would hear in a 80s horror TV-movie and I mean that in the best possible way. This score worked so well in tandem with the atmosphere and locations, that if the story had broken free of the modern post-apocalyptic tropes more often and been overall slightly more original in its storytelling, this review would be drastically different. You can purchase the score here and I highly recommend you at least check it out because I really enjoyed it.
I do respect the bits of originality in Chrysalis. I thought the movie was overall quite good. There’s a scene where Abira asks Josh and Penelope questions about what caused the virus that has wiped out most of humanity. But these questions aren’t for Abira’s benefit. She keeps a log of people’s knowledge of what happened and maintains a working theory of what happened based on all of the perspectives she’s gathered.
Abira’s theory doubles as an exposition dump for the viewer but is much better handled than that would imply. As she tells Josh and Penelope what happened 25 years earlier, a moody score interspersed with some sound effects here and there that assault the audience. The backstory itself is something I won’t spoil in this review, but it’s a frightening story that further steeps the audience into Chrysalis’ bleak world.
By far my favorite scene of the movie featured Abira confiding in Penelope the story of how her father died. It’s a heart-wrenching story and McBride sells the emotion of the scene really well. It isn’t even the method in which Abira’s father died that’s disturbing. It’s the circumstances that led to the death and the way Abira describes it that really resonated with me and showcased how powerful the post-apocalyptic setting can be for telling human stories.
Unfortunately, the movie takes some clichéd turns in the third act. The climactic onslaught of the infected is scary and thrilling. But it’s just expected, especially after the film takes a couple obvious turns. However, it’s worth noting that for a noticeably low budget film, John Klein delivered some solid action and scares that I’m sure satisfied the film’s Kickstarter backers. For me, though, when the movie traded in those well-done, introspective character moments for standard infected horror, I became disengaged.
Chrysalis found home video distribution from a company that retitled the movie Battle Apocalypse. The new title and awful cover art doesn’t do Chrysalis justice for the flashes of psychological horror it injects into a tired premise. Fortunately, the movie is available for digital rental and purchase through its website: http://therestaredead.com/. Though the conventions and trappings of its genre mar it, Chrysalis still says some unique things and does well to shoot around its budget constraints to build a world with a history that’s really frightening.
Worth a Trip to Red Box – These movies may not be worthy of your home collection, but they are worth the effort it takes to travel to your nearest Red Box kiosk.