DIRECTOR Tom Woodruff Jr. WRITER Michael Hayes; Brian Lubocki STARS Tobias Jelinek; Danielle Chuchran; Keely Aloña DVD 25 April
As you’d expect from the special-effects guru behind such films as Alien Vs. Predator and Tremors, this debut feature from Tom Woodruff is packed full of superb creatures and stunning effects, even on the low budget of the production. What isn’t always stunning is the script; the first ten minutes of Fire City: End of Days are complete nonsense, a barrage of unconnected imagery so confusing it almost tarnishes the whole affair. But stick with it, because there’s a half decent and surprisingly odd little movie here, despite a complete lack of fire and the city of the title; much of the running time takes place within an apartment building occupied by demons, and these demons live among us, disguised as us, feeding off our fear and frustrations of life.
Enter Atum Vine (Tobias Jelinek), whose role is to keep balance between the humans and demons so that this arrangement continues, predominantly through dealing drugs and ensuring no one is killed. When things start to change, and it seems people are no longer dwelling in misery and as such his race is growing weaker, he must find the reasons why. And after an encounter with a young girl reaching out for help, he starts to question his role in the world, and what it means to be a demon. It’s a strange concept, and one wouldn’t be surprised if this were based on manga (it isn’t); at least, it’s definitely heavily influenced by the genre. Woodruff gets some good performances out of his cast — Jelinek is excellent, even when buried under layers of prosthetics — and during the second act when proceedings take a darker turn, heading almost into film noir, he handles some emotional moments well.
If there are negatives they come from budget; some of the CGI looks cheap, the soundtrack is poor, and there is a noticeable lack of locations, but the fast pace and fine effects work more than outweigh them. If anything it looks more like a TV show than a feature, and there would be enough story here to easily stretch it out to a season. Think Guillermo Del Toro on a shoestring, and if that appeals, Fire City is worth your attention.