Fire City is FX guru Tom Woodruff Jnr’s debut feature in the director’s chair (you’ll have seen his work in movies such as Ender’s Game, Skyline and – ahem – Alien vs Predator: Requiem and his CV stretches as far back as The Terminator and Aliens) and, true to form, the prosthetics and make-up designs are exemplary – think Buffy/Angel-era spiky-head demons and weirdos. It’s a crowdfunded project too, and we’re never ones to give such worthwhile endeavours a kicking (or kick-startering) but sadly, Fire City, well-intentioned and clearly a labour of love, is a dull and rather pompous effort that never sparks into life and is, in truth, a clunky and lumbering experience.
Frustratingly, there’s an interesting set-up lurking in the murk. It appears that demons walk amongst us, frequently in human form, hiding their monstrous visages from earthly eyes. The demons thrive on the misery of humanity and there’s plenty of it to be found in Fire City. The film is set in a gloomy apartment block inhabited by any number of drug dealers and addicts, abusive parents and assorted nasty types. But demon Atum Vine (Jelinek), who polices the block dealing drugs and keeping un uneasy balance in the relationship between humans and demons find his loyalties divided when he’s warned by the Interpreter of Signs (Churchran) that demonkind is in danger as humans are no longer wallowing in their own misery (not sure what world she lives in, but there you go). Vine finds his own loyalties torn when a young girl named Sara (Alona) needs protecting from abuse and violence at home.
There’s potential for a decent demonic drama here but the script is shoddy and unfocused, wandering and meandering aimlessly and the budget clearly won’t stretch to some of its requirements; one scene apparently set in a nightclub is realised with lots of hanging drapes and plastic sheeting, presumably because access to a proper club was beyond the film’s meagre resources. The entire story takes place in and around the apartment block and after a while it becomes a stifling, stuffy environment, poorly-lit and suffocatingly narratively limiting. Some sequences are so dark it’s hard to work out exactly what’s going on, much less why, and brief flashes of gratuitous nudity and clumsily-executed violence seem to have been flung into the mix just to perk up interest when it starts to flag. But the whole enterprise, Woodruff Jnr’s creature designs notwithstanding, seems flabby and ill-conceived, a not-especially interesting story crippled by weak production values and enlivened by a couple of impassioned performances, especially from Jelinek in the fairly thankless role of the disillusioned demon Vine and young Alona as the wide-eyed Sara.
Fire City smoulders occasionally but never really threatens to set the screen alight. It’s a damp, dark squib.
FIRE CITY: END OF DAYS / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: TOM WOODRUFF JNR / SCREENPLAY: MICHAEL HAYES, BRIAN LUBOCKI / STARRING: TOBIAS JELINEK, DANIELLE CHURCHRAN, KEELY ALONA, KIMBERLEY LEEMANS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW