Sunday, February 10, 2013

Horror Film Review

The Day (2011):  This stark, depressing entry in the post-apocalyptic horror sub-genre does not involve zombies, vampires, or a pandemic.  Instead, it relies on the innate depravity locked within most humans that invariably rises to the surface during calamitous scenarios.  You know the old man's survival is another man's cannibalism.  The Day reminded me a lot of Hell and Stakeland.  It's on par with the former but not nearly as good as the latter.

Three old high school buddies Rick (Dominic Monaghan), Adam (Shawn Ashmore), and Henson (Cory Hardrict) are joined by Shannon (Shannyn Sossamon) and Mary (Ashley Bell) as they navigate a bleak, lifeless countryside ten years after some unknown event decimates the planet.  Rick's the leader, a bit of a dreamer who carries with him two jars of seeds.  He'll play Johnny Appleseed when/if they ever find a hospitable enough patch of ground.  Henson's sick with TB or something and says "fuck" a lot.  Adam's the brooder who's still reeling from the loss of this wife and daughter.  Shannon's moody and selfish and kind of a bitch.  Mary's enigmatic, the last to join the group that once numbered over a dozen, but she's also the best fighter.  They come across a large abandoned house in the middle of nowhere and decide to take a break.  Yeah, I know.  How could folks hardened to the ways of the new world not immediately think "trap"?  Dunno.  But it is.  They fend off the first small band of cannibals who answer the dinner bell (I'm being literal here...a bell rings when the trap's sprung).  More, many more, are on the way and our heroes decide to make their final stand at the house.  The results of that decision are decidedly mixed.

These cannibals are just regular people who gathered together in separate tribes.  "Regular" is relative, however, since these folks have no qualms about eating their own.  No explanation is given as to what prompted certain members of the surviving population to go the long pig route.  And that's my major complaint about the explanations.  Of anything.  What did they survive?  Dunno.  Why is Rick in charge?  Dunno.  Even more fundamental, what country are they in?  Dunno.  It's frustrating, yet an argument can be made that since the movie is called The Day and we're witnessing 24 hours in the lives of these people, nothing extraneous is required.  Personally, I think that's a crap argument.  As it is, we must rely on the occasional offhand comment to try to fill in the blanks. 

A few random comments...  This film is in black and white.  Why?  Dunno.  I reckon it's to give us a better sense of how awful things have gotten.  There are a few splashes of color in key scenes, though.  Fire and blood mostly.  And there's something about the music...kinda weird.  It fits, but it's weird.  The biggest surprise is a Hitchcockian early exit.  Didn't see it coming.


Acting:  Monaghan tries too hard as does Hardrict.  Bell's performance is understated yet somehow explosive.  Although the way she goes from shaking with fear to steely killing machine is jarring. 
Story:  Pared down, bare bones story telling.  The subplot with the cannibal leader and his kids is interesting but makes the bad guys too...human.  I'd have preferred brainless zombies. 
Direction:  Never a dull moment even if most of those moments are dreary and full of fatalistic pathos. 
Production Values:  The house and a remote location in some rugged landscape.  Hard to screw that up.  I mentioned the black and white thing.  At least it's on film and has good sound.  I don't know what the budget was but it doesn't have that cheap feel going on.
Gore/FX:  Plenty of fight-related blood.  Oddly, there's no cannibalism shots.  I'm not complaining.  The scene where Mary has a tribal brand cut out with a hunting knife is pretty gross. 
Scares:  Not really what they were going for.
Ending:  I wouldn't call it happy, exactly, but there is a nugget of hope.  A seed, if you will.
Verdict:  Should you see The Day?  It'll hold your attention and the fight scenes are properly exciting.  There are worse ways to spend 87 minutes of your time. 

Rating:  3 out of 5


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