Picture it: Chicago, 1987. Sally (Shaina Schrooten) leads a group of evangelical protesters as they scream at the employees and patrons of Revealer, a peep show where Angie (Caito Aase) is about to work the longest shift of her life. Soon enough, the heavens open up, and red lightning fills the skies as “hell on Earth” becomes more than just a turn of phrase. An apocalypse soaked in moody neons and feminist anger, Revealer examines the complex relationship between Sally and Angie as they navigate the end of the world.
Sally has clearly been preaching outside Revealer for a while; the history between her and Angie becomes evident as they trade familiar barbs, though the brash, profane, and hilarious Angie comes out on top every time. For most of its runtime, Revealer is a two-woman show in a limited location, but it never lags or loses the viewer’s interest. Aase is a star, giving Angie humor, wit, and depth that keep the viewer engaged in every single frame. Schrooten has the less flashy role — she doesn’t get as many scathing one-liners or fist-pumping moments as Aase does — but she is just as good in finding the humanity in a character who is so easy to hate (at least initially) that a lesser performer might have portrayed her as a pamphlet-carrying cardboard cutout rather than a nuanced character full of doubts and contradictions.
Directed by Luke Boyce, who gets a story credit alongside writers Michael Moreci and Tim Seeley, Revealer strikes a unique tone that I personally couldn’t get enough of. The premise alone should give you some idea of the balance between horror, comedy, and social commentary in the film: a stripper and a religious activist find themselves trapped together at the end of the world. Sally strikes a demon-infested man with a crowbar as a neon sign promising “Adult Pleasures” flashes behind her, and there’s more than a little satisfaction to be had as Angie takes the sanctimonious Sally down a few pegs with a red neon g-string glowing behind them. But Revealer has a lot more on its mind than laughs, setting up a tense and frightening siege as the two women must work together to escape the club and find a way to survive the apocalypse.
Revealer works in a few horror references without winking at the audience too much. Angie makes a C.H.U.D. joke before realizing that Sally has no idea what she’s talking about, and some of the demons look suspiciously like the Graboid tentacles from Tremors. The pièce de résistance, however, is a musical montage that takes place before all hell breaks loose (…literally). Angie dances in her booth — aggressively and without a smile, much to her boss Ray’s (Bishop Stevens) chagrin — to a darkly sultry Gunship song featuring a smoldering saxophone solo from none other than Tim Cappello, an accomplished musician best known to horror fans as the Sax Man from The Lost Boys. Our view alternates between Angie’s forceful, sensual dance and Sally angrily shouting and handing out flyers outside the club. It’s a striking scene, both visually and thematically, that sets up an intriguing question that pays off better than it has any right to by the end of the movie: what are these women so angry about?
Revealer makes incredible use of music throughout: Alex Cuervo’s synth-heavy score pulses and pounds, underscoring the film’s moments of suspense and terror but also providing a damn cool atmosphere that fits Angie’s deliciously sardonic attitude and Robert Patrick Stern’s era-appropriate cinematography. The film’s visuals aren’t your stereotypical ‘80s neons; there are no bubblegum pinks or sunshine yellows here. No, the deep reds, greens, and blues of the club — and of the demonic forces ripping the skies open — have a darker sensibility that better expresses the cultural clash between the religious right and their myriad targets. Homophobia, vilification of sex workers, Satanic panic…the late ‘80s were a dark time, one that never went away but seems to be roaring back now with renewed fervor, and Revealer’s moody lighting reflects the danger inherent in these regressive ideas about policing morality and identity.
Angie is perpetually pissed off and rebellious in the face of such puritanical ideals, making her an engaging protagonist who finds intriguing commonalities with her doomsday partner Sally. At one point she gives an impassioned pep talk to the despairing Sally — who can’t help but notice that the Rapture came and went and still left her on Earth — telling her not to let anyone tell her she’s not good enough, not even God Himself. With political and social attacks on marginalized identities coming faster and faster every day, I sure as hell needed to hear that. In Revealer, the world may be on fire, but refusing to let anyone else tell you who you are or what you’re worth will still save you in the end.