Interview With A.D. Barker

A couple of days ago, I saw one of the most unique post-apocalyptic films in the past decade: A Reckoning.  Focused on one man who is apparently the only survivor of some kind apocalyptic event, A Reckoning follows this man through his daily routines until he decides to finally move on.  It’s one of the most compelling films that I’ve seen in a long time, and it’s something I would love for everybody to see.  Well, today I have a special interview for you: Andrew David Barker(A.D. Barker), the writer, producer, composer, AND director of A Reckoning.

Hi there.  Having just seen your film, A Reckoning, I have to say it’s one of the most unique and compelling post-apocalyptic films that I’ve seen in years.  The way the whole thing come together was just fantastic.  I would like to ask you a few questions about it.


1.  First off, what drew you to the world of film-making?

I’ve always loved movies, right from a very young age. I was born in 1975 so I’m very much of the Spielberg and Lucas generation. I by and large grew up in front of the TV. I loved going to the pictures – as we called it back then – and was just in awe of cinema. I grew up in Derby, a fairly down-trodden Midland town in the UK and movies were an escape.

When we were about 13/14, a friend of mine got a video camera, and that was it, we were off. Every Saturday we’d pile round his house and remake whatever the film of the day was – so we made stuff like Die Hard and Back to the Future in his back garden, if you can imagine that? We even made our own version of Teen Wolf! That sense of creating something with others, the collaborative nature of filmmaking, really stuck with me. In fact, it has never gone away.

I loved making A Reckoning. It was tough, and man was it cold, but it was never not fun. We had the entire location to play around in and the crew were great, and Les was great. His is an extraordinary performance. 

2. What do you think about the current state of affairs with the post-apocalyptic film genre?

 I’m not really sure, I haven’t seen one in a while. Although saying that, I think given the times we’re living in, we might be seeing some in the future.

I’ve always loved post-apocalyptic films. They have landscapes that appeal to me. I love derelict buildings and lands gone to ruin. It’s great imagery.

3. One of the most interesting aspects of A Reckoning was its approach to the whole post-apocalyptic feel.  There are some minor clues here and there that give you a tiny bit of an idea of what happened, but it’s never fully explained, yet felt like a deliberate choice.  Was the idea to keep the event as ambiguous as possible an idea at the very beginning of the project?

 Yeah, I wanted it ambiguous. I didn’t feel the need to fully explain it. Maybe the Lone Man doesn’t even know, and if he does, he has long since stopped caring about it – he’s just trying to get on with his day to day existence.

I wanted this film to exist in a kind of dream state. I wanted it to be and remain mysterious. This is a human being laid bare; a man clinging onto a long dead world. Normality no longer applies.

4. A Reckoning kind of feels like a very personal look at how someone would respond to an apocalyptic situation.  The psychological aspects of the film feel extremely real.  How important was it that the audience gets to see how The Lone Man deal with the situation in different ways?

I think I’ve always been interested in madness – in how far a person can be pushed until the mind snaps. For me, every set up, every situation, I just approached illogically, or as illogically as I could figure. I just tried to figure out how you could survive and what things you’d do to occupy your time. The Man tries to hold onto his old life – the habit and structure give him a centre. For a while, anyway.

5. Leslie Simpson’s performance was outstanding.  Did he really like the script at first, or did he need some convincing?

He did like the script and came straight on board, which was wonderful. I went up to his flat one weekend and we talked it through and then we were away. It came together really fast. I wrote the treatment in the September or October and we were shooting by the January of the following year.

Les was a marvel and I loved collaborating with him. We developed a good short hand very fast and we were pretty much always on the same page. He had this down and he really is incredible in it. To carry a film – a film with minimal dialogue – almost entirely on your own is quite something. How he’s not a big star now, I don’t know. Although I do know he’s now writing and directing his own short. He’s made a couple of really good short films.

6.  I really loved the visual aesthetic of the film.  It was beautifully bleak.  I also noticed that there was no CGI whatsoever, which is rare these days.  How did you manage to get the film to look as desolate and isolated as it does?

It’s the location, which speaks for itself. It was an abandoned RAF base, an entire village just left to ruin. There was no running water, no electricity, no health and safety! And if that wasn’t bleak enough, a few days into the shoot, the snow came, and boy, did it come.

I knew going in that I would have to be very flexible with the script and would have to adapt to whatever the elements and location threw at me, so it was designed to roll with the punches.

The snow makes the film look very grand, so we got very lucky there. We also lucked out with that red sky towards the end of the film. That’s all real. There are no special effects in the film. We couldn’t afford any.

7. Often, the human aspect of the post-apocalyptic genre is set aside for the spectacle.  How important was it to try and keep a very human and grounded story in a genre that has somewhat sidestepped those ideas? 

Well we couldn’t afford the spectacle. This film was done on a ridiculously low budget. Ten/eleven grand maybe. I basically worked to my limitations and I designed a story that was achievable for me to make. That said, even if I’d had the money, I’d still want to make a very human story. That’s what I respond to in stories. Spectacle is great and I can be a sucker for it, but I need story and character, without it you’ve not got much to go on.

8. There are a lot of interesting themes running through the film about loneliness, habits and learning to let go of certain things.  What are you hoping that the audience will take away from A Reckoning?

I just hope people see it and respond to it. I hope they think it’s something they haven’t seen before, that it’s a little different – that it speaks to them in someway. I don’t really know much more than that.

9. What do you have coming up?  Are there any projects or film ideas that you would like to tackle in the future?

I’m hoping to shoot something next year. I’ve been writing and have a couple of things on the go. I just need to find the elusive money.

One project I’d really like to do is adapt my novel Dead Leaves. I’ve written a script and really would love to do that one. It’s set in the early 80s, during the video nasty media storm we had here in the UK, about a group of horror film fans searching for a copy of the notorious “nasty” The Evil Dead.

But besides that, I’ve got a lot of ideas for films. There’s a lot of things I want to do, given the chance.

10.  Last question:  What is your favorite post-apocalyptic film and why?

Mad Max 2. That’s a seminal film for me. It’s one of the films that made me want to make films. It’s just the coolest movie. Every time I watch it I find something new, and also, it always makes me want to go out and shoot something myself. Thank you, George.  

I would like to thank Mr. Barker for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions for us.  A Reckoning is one of the best movies of its kind, and blows a lot of big-budget blockbusters out of the water.  If you can find the film(legally, mind you.  No piracy.), you will not be disappointed.  It is truly a diamond in the rough.  It’s been a couple of days since I saw it, and I’m still thinking about it.  A Reckoning is truly a film worth seeking out.


The Hills Have Eyes (2006)

Released: March 2006

Director: Alexandre Aja

Rated R

Run Time: 107 Minutes

Distributor: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Genre: Horror

Aaron Stanford: Doug
Emilie de Ravin: Brenda
Vinessa Shaw: Lynn
Dan Byrd: Bobby
Ted Levine: Big Bob
Kathleen Quinlan: Ethel
Robert Joy: Lizard
Billy Drago: Papa Jupiter

The horror genre has been around since the beginning of cinema.  It made a huge impact on cinema during the 30s with the Universal Classic Monsters like Dracula, Frankenstein, and The Wolfman.  Between that and 1970, horror was mostly not overly graphic.  Sure, you had some of the Hammer Horror films during the 60s as well as Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, but most of them were generally not super violent.  The decade of the 1970s changed everything.  Movie-making had entered a new Golden Age of sorts when the 70s came around.  This was the decade when the horror genre developed a mean streak.  The Exorcist in 1973 was one of the first to really push the envelope.  Wes Craven’s The Last House on the Left would follow in 1974 along with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.  1976 would see the release of Richard Donner’s The Omen.  1977 was a banner year for movies.  Star Wars blew the whole damned roof off the industry and changed movie-making forever.  However, 1977 would see the release of another Wes Craven cult classic: The Hills Have Eyes.  The Hills Have Eyes was basically about a family trip into Hell itself.  30 years later, Wes Craven would revisit his 1977 horror flick with a newly discovered French director: Alexandre Aja.  The remake of The Hills Have Eyes was released to mixed reactions but was generally well-received by fans of the genre.  Is it really that good?  Yes.  Yes, it is.

The setup is this: A suburban family is on their way to California from Cleveland, Ohio to hit the beach.  On the way, they stop by a lone gas station somewhere in the New Mexico desert.  The gas station’s owner tells them of a short-cut that will supposedly save them several hours.  On the dirt road, their tires blow and they crash into a large rock.  Stranded in the middle of nowhere, Big Bob and Doug, Bob’s son-in-law head off in two different directions to find help.  The others stay the fort and wait for help, not realizing that they are being watched.  As far as re-makes go, The Hills Have Eyes is easily one of the best.  The original film may seem cheesy by today’s standards, but Alexandre Aja’s picture takes the intensity and gives it a gritty and brutal face-lift.  The story plays out the same way that the original film did with some minor variations.  Overall, it holds up and once it gets going, it doesn’t stop or show you mercy until the credits roll.

One of the most effective things about good horror movies is having characters that you care about.  If you care about the characters on the screen, you’re going to be afraid for them, and you’re going to feel something if and when they get killed off or worse.  Thankfully, the characters in The Hills Have Eyes really do come across as your typical fun-loving suburbanite family caught in a nightmarish situation.  Big Bob is the head of the family and while he’s apparently a card-carrying member of the NRA, his son-in-law is anti-gun.  With them is Bob’s wife, Ethel and two daughters, Brenda and Lynn.  Along for the ride is the younger brother Bobby and two German Shepherd dogs.  Lynn has a new baby as well.  Each of these characters have their quirks, but they tend to be fairly likable.  The other characters include an old man who runs a gas station, and oh, yeah:  A band of murderous mutant cannibals that live in the New Mexico desert.  These guys are particularly vile, but they are still very effective villains.

As you would expect in a movie like this, not everybody survives.  Some of the kills in the film are particularly brutal.  The gas station owner blows his on head off in a particularly gory fashion.  Big Bob gets roasted alive.  Some of the most intense scenes happen when the mutants attack the trailer that only has the women in it.  It becomes extremely unsettling with the amount of cruelty that this mutants inflict on the family.  Murder, rape and kidnapping are part and parcel for these freaks.  At the time, I had seen stuff that pushed the envelope a little bit, but The Hills Have Eyes kind of opened my eyes to new kind of horror movie.  I’m grateful for that, actually, because this was one of the most grueling mainstream horror movies released in 2006.    Thanks to the watchful eyes of Wes Craven and Alexandre Aja, The Hills Have Eyes remake is regarded as one of the best remakes in the last 20 years.

I can’t review this film and not mention the visual and make-up effects of the legendary KNB Effects company.  These guys are widely regarded as some of the best in the business, alongside folks like Tom Savini and Rob Bottin.  The design of the mutants is extraordinary.  These are characters that have been mutated by the effects of nuclear tests in the New Mexico desert.  The make-up on a number of these freaks like Lizard and Pluto.  The design is exquisite and quite horrifying.  The gore effects are equally impressive.  While The Hills Have Eyes is far from the goriest film I’ve ever seen, the use of the blood and prosthetics make for a far more believable and harrowing experience.  There is some CGI in the film, and after 10 years, the CGI doesn’t hold up very well.  Thankfully, it’s used at a minimum.  It’s also used to enhance some of the mutants.

There a couple of nitpicks that I have here and there.  For one, the film does fall on some obvious horror film tropes, such as the old man who gives them wrong directions.  I’ve seen that in so many movies, it’s cliche.  Then you have people splitting up.  Have you people not seen a horror movie?!  But aside from that, what we have here is one of the most solid and thrilling horror films to come out in the past 15 years.  The Hills Have Eyes was enough of a success that it got a sequel the following year.  I’ll get to that one in a different post, and boy do I have shit to say about that movie.  That being said, if you’re looking for a gritty and intense experience, look no further than The Hills Have Eyes.  It’s a solid remake and is one of Alexandre Aja’s best films.  This is a must-see for horror fans.

My Final Recommendation:  Avoid the New Mexico desert and lone gas stations with creepy old men.  No good can come from that.  9/10

A Reckoning

Released: 2011

Director: A.D. Barker

Not Rated

Run Time: 101 Minutes

Genre: Drama/Mystery

Leslie Simpson: The Lone Man
Axelle Carolyn: The Woman
Daniel Tee: The Red Death
Marcus Green: The Master of Ceremonies

There’s a reason why I really enjoy doing what I do here on this site.  Obviously, I love movies.  Big budget, low budget, NO budget;  there is always some value to be had from watching movies.  I love movies that take me by surprise.  These ones often come in under the radar.  Lord of Tears, Weapon of Choice, and The Neighbor are just a handful of movies that I’ve managed to discover or was told about.  How many of them are actually good?  Not as many as one would think, but more than you would anticipate.  But every once in a while, you come across a film that some could consider to be somewhat….profound.  A Reckoning is one such movie.  Shot at an abandoned RAF air base for two weeks, A Reckoning shakes up your average post-apocalyptic film quite a bit.

A story like this can be very difficult to describe, especially if you’re trying to avoid spoilers.  The film is set after an unspecified apocalyptic event that has left essentially one man left alive.  This lone figure used to be a school teacher, as we see him basically go through the motions on a daily basis, trying to educate his students.  The problem… that the students are made of straw.  I’m going to leave the story’s description at that, because anything further will ruin what the film is trying to say.  The post-apocalyptic genre is loaded with different kinds of stories, ranging from action to horror.  Very rarely, though, do we get a movie that takes a look at what would happen to a person after a major catastrophic event.  A Reckoning is a character study of sorts into how a person would respond to an apocalyptic event.  We don’t see what caused the event, but little clues here and there give a slight indication of what might have happened.  The film is smart to avoid explaining that.  The film is a comment on the human race as creatures of habit, even in the face of catastrophe.

This is essentially a one-man show with Leslie Simpson.  That being said, his performance is absolutely astonishing.  We see his character go through the motions initially, going to class to teach, but over the course of the film, the character starts to unravel, as it were.  He starts hallucinating and seeing things that may or may not be there.  Leslie’s performance is a heartbreaking one.  This is a character that had pretty much everything and lost it all in the blink of an eye, and yet he’s still trying to hold on to what he used to be.  Leslie Simpson is a revelation, and we don’t really get a lot of movies that have this much character depth.  Leslie obviously had to prepare for his role, because it takes place in the snow in an abandoned town.  It really looks like Leslie was put through the ringer, here, and the film is all the better for it.  Occasionally, we do see other people, but whether or not they are real is left to the viewer’s imagination.  This is definitely Leslie’s show, through and through.

Visually, this is an absolutely stunning film.  It’s beautifully bleak, as I like to say.  The environments in the film are obviously on location, but it definitely looks like the apocalypse happened.  With all the snow on the ground, it’s pretty unsettling.  Not only that, but the camera work is incredible.  There’s a lot of different angles used, as well as different visuals that really sell the hopelessness of the film.  Post-apocalyptic movies are also about isolation, and what we see in A Reckoning is clearly that.  If you were the last person on earth, you would feel pretty isolated.  But getting back to the visuals, the detail in this film is remarkable right down to the snowfall.  The music is also something that’s just phenomenal.  It’s not bombastic or epic.  It’s far more….personal and uses a lot of string instruments.  It really gives the film its proper mood.

I can’t really think of many nitpicks for this movie.  A Reckoning is a very internalized and personal look at one person’s journey through the apocalypse.  Movies like this aren’t always the easiest to sit through, because it requires more of its audience than just watching it.  It wants you to experience it.  It wants you to look inside and ask yourself how you would deal with a situation like this.  The film’s message is obviously open to interpretation, but I have to say, it is one of the most unique experiences I’ve had.  It’s movies like A Reckoning that make what I do so rewarding.  It’s not going to be for everyone, as it is pretty slow, but that’s done on purpose.  I was fully engaged from beginning to end.  I was heavily invested in the character and the world that he inhabits.  If you’re curious, this is one to seek out, if you can.

My Final Recommendation: A Reckoning is a force to be reckoned with. 9/10

Spider-Man: Homecoming

Released: July 2017

Director: Jon Watts

Rated PG-13

Run Time: 133 minutes

Distributor: Sony/Marvel

Genre: Action

Tom Holland: Peter Parker/Spider-Man
Michael Keaton: Adrian Toomes/Vulture
Robert Downey, Jr.: Tony Stark/Iron Man
Marisa Tomei: Aunt May
Jon Favreau: Happy Hogan
Zendaya: Michelle
Donald Glover: Aaron Davis
Jacob Batalon: Ned

When Iron Man debuted in 2008, it opened an entirely new world of superhero movies:  The Marvel Cinematic Universe.  For a while, there, it was fantastic with films like Iron ManThor, and Captain America.  It was all building up to the big movie of 2012: The Avengers.  Oh, man, it was totally awesome.  For the first time, we saw the biggest superheroes in Marvel’s lineup on the same screen together:  Captain America, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Iron Man, Thor, and the Hulk.  The first Avengers film will go down in cinema history as one of the most iconic superhero movies ever made.  After that, we were happy with whatever Marvel was throwing our way, at least until Avengers: Age of Ultron.  What a disappointment THAT was.  Ultron highlighted one of the biggest problems in many comic book movies:  Having too much.  The movies that came after Ultron were beginning to look a lot like each other.  With the exceptions of Doctor Strange and Guardians of the Galaxy, people could be forgiven for mistaking one of these movies with the other.  Unfortunately, Spider-Man: Homecoming doesn’t really do a lot to change that.

Thankfully, this is not another Spider-Man origin story.  The film takes place shortly after the events of Captain America: Civil War.  After the Battle of New York, a group of city contractors were tasked with salvaging and cleaning up the city.  Adrian Toomes was the head of this group, until the government steps in and shuts things down.  Shortly after, we see young Peter Parker on his way to school and blah, blah, blah.  Fuck it.  It’s another Spider-Man movie.  It’s pretty much like everything else, except this time it’s set in a world where the Avengers exist and Tony Stark is mentoring Parker.  This is the story:  Parker is an awkward teenager with superpowers.  He uses superpowers to help people.  He runs into a villain that he has a personal connection with.  Parker and said villain fight, Parker screws up, Tony Stark is pissed, kid loses suit and wants redemption and so on and so forth.  The story isn’t anything new.  I’ve seen a million times before.  It’s just as predictable as every other MCU film.

What the film does have going for it, are its two leads played by Tom Holland and Michael Keaton respectively.  Tom Holland really impresses me as Spider-Man.  He first showed up in Civil War, and I really dug the character.  Here, we get a more personal look at the character’s day-to-day life since his debut.  Holland is not only a good actor, but he is physically capable as well.  He does most of his own stunts thanks to his background in dancing and gymnastics.  He’s a natural athlete.  He does pretty good.  Marisa Tomei is alright as Aunt May, even if she is a little young for the role.  The real standout here is Michael Keaton as The Vulture.  Keaton has been one of my favorite actors for YEARS.  This isn’t his first comic book movie, either.  That would have been Tim Burton’s Batman, in 1989.  He is such an incredible performer.  The character he plays is one of the most interesting and complex characters that I’ve seen in the MCU, and quite frankly, Keaton just knocks it out of the park.  Robert Downey, Jr. is Tony Stark….what else can I say?  This is another one of those things that highlights a major problem that I have with the MCU:  Iron Man is in nearly everything.  I get it, he’s an integral part of The Avengers, but does he need to show up in nearly every movie?  Marvel does its damnedest to make sure you know you’re watching an MCU film.

In typical MCU fashion, the action is rather spectacular with an absolutely OBSCENE amount of CGI.  I get that CGI is a part of the whole industry now, and it helps sell these movies as comic book movies.  Quite frankly, I was hoping for more practical real-world stunts, given Tom Holland’s athleticism.  There’s plenty of explosions and fisticuffs to satisfy most fans, but the problem here, is that it all feels too familiar.  As far as the designs go, I really like the new Spider-Man suit.  I like the way it looks.  I also like the way that Vulture is designed.  Obviously, they refused to use a green leotard, and opted for a more militaristic look for the character that works very well, and makes Toomes more menacing.  Those wings are wicked awesome, I have to admit.  The weapons that the villains use are pretty cool as they’re remnants of the alien invasion in New York.

Spider-Man: Homecoming was made by both Marvel and Sony as a collaboration, and it works some of the time.  You know, I look at all these positive reviews of the film saying it’s one of the best comic-book movies of 2017 and the best Spider-Man film ever.  Guess what?  I don’t see it.  What I see is yet another generic entry into a cinematic universe that I feel is over-saturated with over-the-top action films and not enough character-driven pictures.  Look, I like Spider-Man, I love Tom Holland as Spider-Man.  I want Spider-Man in a better film.  Honestly, I think that The Amazing Spider-Man films were better than this.  Then again, maybe it’s because I’ve seen far too much of the MCU these days.  Black Panther is coming out next year, and I’m not overly excited for it, even though it looks interesting.  The best comic-book movies I’ve seen this year were Logan and Wonder Woman.  If it wasn’t for Tom Holland and Michael Keaton, Spider-Man: Homecoming would be a complete waste of time.  I’m sorry, that’s just how it is.

My Final Recommendation: Spider-Man, Spider-Man, does pretty much what other Spider-Men have done, only not as well.  6/10