Austin Film Festival 2015: ‘Jack’s Apocalypse’ has plenty of suspense

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David Maldonado stars as Jack in "Jack's Apocalypse."
David Maldonado stars as Jack in "Jack's Apocalypse."

David Maldonado stars as Jack in “Jack’s Apocalypse.”

Austin filmmaker Will James Moore, a former University of Texas football player who made his feature debut with 2013’s “Satellite of Love,” screened his second feature, “Jack’s Apocalypse,” Friday night at the Austin Film Festival, and it’s a significant advance in Moore’s career.

It stars David Maldonado as Jack Coleman, a former Austin city councilman who still seems to have plenty of money but who’s in a downward spiral of drugs and alcohol.

At the beginning, we seem him stumbling around Sixth Street before picking up a woman at a bar and taking her back home to his downtown high-rise. He’s estranged, perhaps divorced, from his wife Mary, and he has a son whom he has neglected. And while he’s having sex with the woman he has taken home, he has an apparent seizure, perhaps a heart attack.

But we see him the next morning, sitting in his living room, snorting line after line of cocaine, while the woman he brought home calls him a jerk and quickly leaves.

Then he gets one of the strangest calls of his life. It’s his brother, an Army officer with access to intelligence secrets, and he tells Jack that the United States is veering toward an apocalypse. He wants Jack to meet his wife and daughter at the Austin airport and take them to a safe place – their family’s lakeside cabin. So Jack picks up his brother’s family (Jamie Tisdale and Ashlea Rae) and heads for the countryside, only to see a mushroom cloud explode in the sky over Austin.

Most of the movie plays out as you might expect, but it’s artfully done. And along the way, Jack tries to stay sober so that he can protect his relatives. Along the way, they pick up more than a few friends, including a former girlfriend of Jack’s as well as her ailing father, plus a doctor (Tishuan Scott) who’s facing a crisis at the hospital, where all the patients are dying. Together, they form a loose band of survivalists at the cabin.

The tension builds up as an old acquaintance of Jack discovers their location and poses a big threat. To say much more would cause spoilers. But it’s a good piece of work on Moore’s part. Some audience members might have objections to the ending, but that won’t be revealed here. Let’s just say that “Jack’s Apocalypse” has a narrative thrust that’s quite entertaining and suspenseful.

“Jack’s Apocalypse” screens again at 9:45 p.m. Wednesday at the State Theatre downtown, next to the Paramount.

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