While seemingly at opposite ends of the emotional spectrum, horror and comedy can make for extremely comfortable bedfellows. Laughter and terror are two of the most visceral responses a filmmaker can hope to elicit from an audience and, when traversed correctly, the ground between them can prove dramatically fertile.
Australian writer-director Zak Hilditch’s apocalyptic vision is striking in its visuals, bold in its bleakness and completely unoriginal in its core narrative. An asteroid strike in the North Atlantic sends a tsunami of unstoppable fire around the world, with Western Australia the last place to be hit. The people of Perth have 12 hours to contemplate their demise and, as the sky turns hotter, lawlessness rapidly descends – with many choosing suicide or the escape of hard drugs, rather than meeting their fate head on.
Combining auteur filmmaking Terence Malick with powerhouse performers Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett and Natalie Portman should, in theory, have resulted in cinematic fireworks. Instead, Knight of Cups is a damp squib, its arresting visuals an artistic smokescreen for a barely-there narrative that is unoriginal, insipid and downright alarming in its treatment of women.