Blame it on the Mayans, maybe, but 2012 and 2013 have seen a host of films with apocalypse on the brain, from big budget action flicks to meta-comedies like “This Is The End,” to smaller, more realistic dramedies like “It’s A Disaster,” which made its premiere at last year’s L.A. Film Fest (we even wrote a guide on the 2013 apocalypse movies). Director Denis Henry Hennelly’s “Goodbye World” falls more in line with the latter, situating a group of seven college friends in a Northern California cabin in the wake of a cyber attack. While it has its funny moments, it’s definitely not a comedy, but it seeks to acknowledge the weird ways in which people react to times of crisis, especially amongst this particular group, with their complicated personal histories. Will they implode from their own internal strife or outside threats?
Meanwhile, we see a montage of their other pals around the U.S.: Benji (Mark Webber) an activist recently released from prison for arson gives a talk at a college; Laura (Gaby Hoffmann) interviews for a job though her past is tainted by scandal; Lev (Scott Mescudi aka Kid Cudi) readies himself for a suicide attempt. Everyone at once receives multiple text messages reading “Goodbye World,” which shuts down cell service, happening in conjunction with a major power outage. As the media begins to report on the news, the masses react hysterically, rioting in the streets and devolving into anarchy. Benji, with his college fling Ariel (Remy Nozik) in tow, heads for the hills of James and Lily’s place, and informs them as to what is going on. Laura somehow commandeers a small aircraft when her flight to SFO is diverted to Vegas, and finds a dehydrated Lev on the road as she hikes up to the cabin herself. Once they are all assembled, it’s time for the film to beg the question: what happens when a survivalist, a Libertarian Constitutionalist, a capitalist, an anarchist activist, a democratist, and two hackers try to survive the apocalypse in one house?
James, ever the provider, and seemingly our hero, turns out to make some of the most fatal errors of the film because of his hubris and self-righteousness. As the internal drama heats up, so do the outside threats, in the form of a menacing pair of National Guardsman whom they turn away from their privileged enclave. The soldiers end up at a neighbor’s camp, and the leader, Damon (played chillingly by Linc Hand) starts to pressure them for their supplies, using sexual violence, assault and the fact that he’s got the biggest gun to boss everyone around, and blackmail James. He successfully pierces the bubble of this group, who can no longer remain removed from the situation at hand, despite their best efforts. Though Damon is a violent sociopath, he’s also a much needed reality check.
All in all, “Goodbye World” is an entertaining and realistic look at what could very well happen when we consider the end of the world. It won’t necessarily come via sinkholes or aliens, but from ourselves. And we are the only ones who can decide just how we are going to deal with it, which is the question that this film posits. But it’s also a question that we could stand to ask ourselves now, apocalypse or not. [B+]