A post-apocalyptic, 80’s nostalgia, comedy creature feature for the Stranger Things era!
**Minor spoilers follow**
If TV series such as Stranger Things and that one episode of Black Mirror has given rise to anything, it’s something we might call ’80sploitation’ (this must already be a valid subgenre and concept, given that Microsoft recognizes it as a word).
Revealer opens with a false 80’s evangelical ad. The cartoonish televangelist raves incoherently about how he is needed to stop the terrible sin of the modern world. Next, we cut to another 80s nostalgia scene: a hot girl in silver heels, hair extensions, and hand warmers, walking in the sun to some power metal. Her aviators and spiked collar are juxtaposed with some religious protestors with giant-framed glasses and loose-fitting jackets.
The scene is set: it’s the pre-internet age of smut, where porno magazines are sold in black bags, and strip clubs are behind several sets of doors. An age where Christianity itself has a bit of a crossover with the risqué, the Madonna-style crosses, and lace. Our heroes are an unlikely duo, a partnership of apocalyptic convenience: the foul-mouthed stripper who works in the smut joint, and the religious protestor who stands outside it, waving flyers.
They are well-acquainted with one another, given their many antagonistic interactions, but they’ve never had a real conversation. Their initial interactions are on separate sides of a wall, and they go back and forth between insulting each other or showing genuine concern, hoping the other is ok. They quickly realize they will have to cooperate in order to survive, however.
The situation requires both of them to use their knowledge: a demon the latter is familiar with is driving the apocalypse, and they must navigate the underground strip club to escape it. The way these former enemies begin to truly care for each other’s welfare is actually quite touching. I couldn’t help but feel proud of the evangelical when she makes her first zombie-creature kill.
In the third act, a big cathartic moment comes, and we see the stripper boldly stand up for the religious protestor, to a scary demon. It definitely feels like a theatrical “moment of truth,” and is the strongest scene, from a writing/acting perspective.
From a technical standpoint, results are mixed. The cinematography is an aesthetic treat, with bright, contrasting colors. We’re given that now somewhat well-worn 80s nostalgia look: neon blue and pink, the slightly, intentionally fuzzy camera, and a reference to the 1984 horror cult classic C.H.U.D. The soundtrack is a fun companion, featuring both 80s songs and a pulsing, original score. However, the script and acting both come off as a bit jejune, and the actual action is poorly lit, with amateur special effects (though this may be intentional, for more nostalgia). It definitely feels more like a festival release than a mainstream movie.
The strongest technical part is the end credit sequence, in which we leave the claustrophobic hallways we’ve been stuck in for the last 90 minutes and see what the outside apocalypse looks like. It is surprisingly creative and expansive, but in a sense, this is actually quite frustrating – why not incorporate these elements earlier in the movie?
In terms of horror, the movie is not particularly frightening, but there are some truly gruesome moments. The re-animated victims of the apocalypse don’t quite turn into zombies, but rather, some lizard-like creatures with creepy body parts springing out of them. There are lengthy, squiggling tongues that burst from the throats of the dead and into the throats of their living prey – definitely disgusting.
I think the main criticism I have regarding Revealer is how it is over-ambitious. It attempts to combine many subgenres: 80s nostalgia, zombie apocalypse, creature feature, comedic horror, demon possession, lesbian horror, and arguably exploitation. As such, it feels a little cluttered and unfocused. It also takes on some themes slightly beyond its own capacity, including the Breakfast Club-style “We all have more in common than we think”. What start out as caricatures turn into two people with surprising depth. It also tackles ideas about the nature of evil, whether some external demons make us say and do cruel things, or our own twisted self-loathing. Some will certainly find the anti-religious themes a bit obnoxious or redundant, but others will be thrilled. The result, while a bit imprecise, is still thoughtful and poignant. Finally, it’s one of those rare films that is mostly dialogue, containing very little action. Regardless of the outcome, I’m always impressed with such an effort.
Some viewers will also be frustrated with the pacing and length of the film, which probably should have been shorter, especially since Shudder has already given us originals that clock in at only one hour. It begins to drag, particularly since the horror parts are only intermittent.
Overall, Revealer may not be a great cinematic achievement, nor much of an 80s nostalgic standout, but it’s quite enjoyable for fans of the subgenre. Most importantly, it’s a fun and enjoyable little flick, spearheaded by two protagonists who are easy to root for.
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Voting member of the Independent Spirit Awards. Charter subscriber to the Criterion Channel. Silent and pre-code horror enthusiast. In my “real” life, I’m a human rights activist, social scientist, and burlesque performer