Anyone who tells you that they’ve seen every online video series out there is lying. Everyone has gaps in their knowledge, even the most devoted. Which is my way of justifying the fact that I hadn’t seen After Judgment until after it was nominated for five Streamys, including Best Dramatic Web Series (NewTeeVee is co-sponsoring the Streamys and I’m a founder of the IAWTV, which judges them).
But hey, better late than never, and I was glad to have the opportunity. After Judgment is an extremely moody, post-apocalyptic drama about a world 100 years after people stopped dying and people stopped being born. What isn’t immediately clear, however, is that this is the world post-Rapture. (For those who haven’t studied the Bible or seen any Kirk Cameron movies recently, the Rapture is the ascension of sinless souls that is said to take place as part of the second coming of Jesus Christ.)
But while my memory of the Book of Revelation is that once the Rapture has taken place, there’s some sort of world-ending war, Judgment instead takes place in a Waiting for Godot-esque hellscape. The central characters, Steven (Joel Bryant) and Michelle (Taryn O’Neill) wander aimlessly through the ruins of Los Angeles, seeking some sort of relief from the malaise of their lives.
Working on an incredibly limited budget, writer/director Michael Davies manages to invoke this world using only heavily saturated cinematography, atmospheric music, and some carefully chosen locations. There are some questions about the plausibility of the buildings and people surviving as well as they have over a 100-year time span, though once you buy into the Rapture conceit, it’s easier to accept these things. And fortunately, the religious angle isn’t a major factor — Judgment is more interested in how this event affected and broke down society, while a spin-off series, Before Judgment, explores the lives of the characters prior to After.
Judgment isn’t by any stretch of the imagination perfect: Its actors are talented but cold and distant, it’s difficult to engage or identify with any of the characters, and the overall tone is so heavy and melancholy that watching more than one episode in a row will make you crave a palette cleanser. But it’s a sublime example of an independent web series with a distinctly original point of view, which is exactly the sort of content the Streamys is celebrating, and what makes the online video medium an inspiring one.