John Glass awakens from being cryogenically frozen to discover that the world is dead due to a third world war and an alien invasion. While still unsure about anything that is going on, a computerized voice informs him that he's been chosen by the government to help reestablish the earth by completing missions that will help make it livable once more. John isn't sure why he's been chosen and why he's the one who has to make things right, but he's going to do the job anyway and complete his missions -- hopefully.
When you first watch the trailer for "Hellacious Acres: The Case of John Glass" your initial thought is probably along the lines of, "Wut?" After I watched "Hellacious Acres" my initial thought was, "HA! …Wut?" That bit of confusion, however, has gone from being directed at the movie to people's reactions to the movie. I'll give an advanced spoiler and say I enjoyed the movie and after watching it, I was expecting to see similar reactions from people. Much to my surprise, "Hellacious Acres" is appreciated by some but seems to be hated by more.
Okay, maybe it isn't that surprising since, it seems, everything in movie (purposely) goes against what is popular and what is wanted from movies. "Hellacious Acres" is about John Glass, a man cryogenically frozen from an unknown time but we can safely assume that it was a time before the world went to hell. John awakens from his slumber to a computer program telling him that world he knew was gone due to a third world war, nuclear devastation and aliens. He's been placed into a protective military suit and it is his duty to help the government make the world right. John didn't ask for this job, but like how most people function in real life, he plans on doing what's been asked of him, regardless.
I'd venture to guess that ultimately where "Hellacious Acres" loses a majority of the viewers is the fact that this is literally a DIY project. Everything, minus a very few special areas and a few helpful assistant camera operators, is done by writer, director Pat Tremblay. Obviously this is going to limit the movie to a degree (Sorry, no Michael Bay explosions or awful brain dead action sequences, á la "Doomsday", for you.) but I think it does more to demonstrate the resourcefulness of Pat and how he was able to execute his vision. Post-apocalyptic dystopian movies are hard enough to make as is (Look at how many terrible ones there are that had big budgets.) and they're especially difficult to make when you don't have the resources. That's where "Hellacious Acres" initially won me over - it took a constricting concept and managed to find a way to make it work, even if the way that was found didn't produce the most exciting movie.
The movie is limited to our one central character with less than a handful of interactions with minor characters and only empty fields with derelict houses and barns for locations. "Hellacious Acres" is as isolated and minimal as you can get and while it is creatively brilliant and effective, it seemed that it didn't work for some folks. I guess you can make a movie about a single character being stranded on an island with a goddamn volleyball, and you'll get people throwing awards and panties at your feet. If you make a movie about a single character wandering barren fields while he talks to a severed arm, well, then be prepared to be pelted with cabbage and tomatoes from the audience. To a degree, I can understand why this movie doesn't work for some because not much occurs in the actual movie and the runtime is a bit long. Certainly some trimming could have helped overall and also helped to keep some of the scenes from feeling like they were dragging. Hell, the movie could have been a total loss for me as well but it did something that made it worth while, and not feel as dull as it could have, and that is the movie proudly displays a sense of quirkiness and absurdity.
The movie is an odd concoction; it throws in video game styling into an almost genre-basic concept with dark humor to create an absurd post-apocalyptic adventure. It's great because that is what allows "Hellacious Acres" to feel more fresh and more creative in what is probably one of the most redundant sub-genres, next to slashers and zombies. The comedy bits, whether they were silly, like John Glass digging a hole and then burying his head while asking for death to carry him away. Or the rather dark bits, such as John carrying around the severed arm from a fellow soldier to keep him company. That humor, dark or silly, helps to break up the long scenes of our lead character walking through landscapes of nothing along with the general lack of action.
Even though it's not as exciting as people have come to expect from movies dealing with desolate futures, and clearly "Hellacious Acres" was purposely challenging the audience, I thought it was still an interesting movie that showed a great deal of talent from Pat. Certainly Soviet filmmakers would have loved "Hellacious Acres" due to the stylized science fiction aspect and the dismal nature of the movie. It's not depressing or painful to the point that it's going to make you want to slit your wrists like watching early Swedish films do. But the tagline that "Hellacious Acres" carries, "Reborn To Lose", tells you all that you need to know about the tone and where the movie is heading. You have to be willing to be like Bloody Disgusting Selects and take a chance on "Hellacious Acres"; with the clever writing (notably in the dialogue), the creative directing and editing culminated with the absurd attitude and weird humor makes it a worthy venture.
Or maybe I'm just full of shit and the only reason I liked "Hellacious Acres" is because they (as in the people behind the movie) used reverse psychology and gave us this warning, before they sent the screener: "…but beware: this is a long, slow and painful movie to watch." Sounds like a strong possibility to me -- those crafty bastards.