Friday, January 4, 2013

The Day (2011) review


THE DAY 2011

Shawn Ashmore (Adam), Ashley Bell (Mary), Brianna Barnes (Nikki), Shannyn Sossamon (Shannon), Dominic Monaghan (Rick)

Directed by Douglas Aarniokoski

The Short Version: It's not great by any stretch, but THE DAY is an impressive, polished, 84 minute post apocalyptic siege movie gorefest that doesn't answer a whole lot of questions, but does a fine job with what was obviously a low budget. The effects are predominantly of the CG variety, but the tone is so ruthless, this is easily forgiven. The 28 DAYS/WEEKS LATER style score is also fitting.

Five survivors of an undefined holocaust find shelter and food within a rundown farm house only to discover it's a trap set by a roving gang of cannibalistic crazies.

As soon as this started, and that WWE studios logo came up, I almost shut this off, but it seems they only distributed this Canadian production. It's a quasi-horror action thriller with occasional moments of exposition and lots of bloody violence. The fight scenes are all the typical Anglo-action with the camera shaking a lot and some quick cuts to make everybody look like they're moving faster than they really are. They come off pretty decent and they're always punctuated by an evisceration, impalement, axe in the head, or some other gory demise. The film is loaded with them.

The script by Luke Passmore is efficient, but not very forthcoming on details as to what sort of holocaust this is, nor just why there seems to be two factions of mankind -- the normal humans and the ones that eat the humans. All we get is that they are called the Alistair Clan. Nothing more is revealed outside of the fact that this apocalypse took place a decade ago and that our main characters have gradually dwindled from a dirty dozen to a frazzled five. 

The villains, such as they are, have no discernible features to make them frightening. They're just regular people who kill with various sharp implements. We never see them chow down on anybody, we only hear about it a lot; often in graphic detail. The five survivors all have guns, yet it's not explained  how they've survived as long as they have, or where their ammo has come from.

This is the films major quandary. As vicious as the movie is, there's nothing to separate the bad guys from the good guys to make them stand out. There's an extended torture sequence that manages to paint the heroes as more savage than the cannibals. 

The violence is mostly little more than a string of attacks on the farmhouse peppered with lots of gore. There's also violence towards children which may turn some off. 

The finale contains a slew of splattery CGI effects work and culminates with one final brutal ass bit of savagery that kinda had me cheering ever so slightly; as well as the films best gore shot which features a nuance I didn't notice till the second viewing.

Ashley Bell, whom readers may remember as the focal point of THE LAST EXORCISM (2010), does a great Sigourney Weaver impersonation here. She's the best thing in the movie and really hammers out a fine performance. She's another bright spot here that helps one to overlook deficiencies that would seriously cripple lesser features. Her character is also the most interesting of the bunch because of a secret she harbors that figures into the plot in a major way about halfway through.

Shawn Ashmore is quickly becoming a familiar face in horror movies these days. With THE RUINS (2008), FROZEN (2010), HATCHET 2 (2010), MOTHER'S DAY (2010) and a brief role in THE BARRENS (2012) to his credit, his lead here in THE DAY also provides an important arc having lost his wife and child to this mysterious apocalypse.

Shannyn Sossamon is of interest in that she starts off as the sort of character who tries to keep her ever dwindling "family" together. After the halfway point, she suddenly becomes this conniving bitch towards Mary (Bell), even after she's saved her life.

The photography is also noteworthy, and one other element that impresses in this weak, if intermittently striking little movie. The monochromatic look does much to further the charred view of the empty, somewhat barren landscape. There's an occasional burst of color (mostly when blood is splattered everywhere), but the bulk of the time it's a single tone color scheme.

From the director of HIGHLANDER: ENDGAME (2000), this is a minor movie, but there's some great potential here that isn't fully realized. The seriously underdeveloped cannibal clan does the most damage, but for what it is, THE DAY (2011) is far better than a lot of the DTV glut currently stocked in your local brick and mortar.

This review is representative of the Anchor Bay DVD.

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