BluRay/DVD Reviews

THE DAY

By • Dec 16th, 2012 •

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So here we are in the Post-Apocalypse. Five survivors have banded together over the ten years since the planet bought it. We join them in the present and never learn much about the past. Little by little we learn more about the present, however, and it’s not a swell place to dwell.

This solid mini-genre has been well-traveled over the past several decades, from once-missing films like 1933’s DELUGE, to 1959, a big year for mega-death, with Stanley Kramer’s ON THE BEACH and Harry Belafonte’s THE WORLD, THE FLESH AND THE DEVIL. And from there we’ve seen many more, some directed by Roger Corman, which meant the sub-genre was good business. Still, it amazes me how they keep drawing an audience. I mean, can you imagine anything more grim. For the most part these excursions aren’t knee-slapping laugh-fests (ZOMBIELAND and SHAUN OF THE DEAD being exceptions), and one doesn’t sit down to view a post-apocalyptic flick expecting to find a band of upbeat, light-hearted protagonists surfing the terrain in search of a home. A few years ago we had THE ROAD, definitely the Feel Bad film of 2009, and most of the genre pop-ups since then seem to be striving for that film’s look and feel. Certainly the survival aspects, and the horror elements, draw audiences in. Survival flicks have been popular longer than post-apocalyptics – THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME and it’s many imitators, for example. Add ravaging the earth to the formula, and you’ve got the icing on the cake.

Within the past few years we’ve had the road-apocalypse film STAKELAND, an excellent low-budget effort, and the urban THE DIVIDE, also harrowing, the latter about a group of immediate survivors of a nuclear strike on NYC who hole dup in an apartment building cellar, there to degenerate like the characters in Bunuel’s THE EXTERMINATING ANGEL, only worse, since radioactivity has crept in despite their best efforts, and they all swiftly rot away.

THE DAY stars Shawn Ashmore, Ashley Bell, Cory Hardrict, Dominic Monaghan, Michael Eklund and Shannyn Sossamon (on IMDB there’s an adorable shot of Ms. Sossamon at an A KNIGHT’S TALE event, caught with her mouth open). Ashley Bell is cold, killing flesh personified. Sossamon’s actually got her beat, but it’s not as outwardly obvious. Everyone’s real good in it, as directed by Douglas Aarniokoski, but no one’s sympathetic. That’s fair, of course – we wouldn’t be terribly sympathetic under the same circumstances, now would we? But in terms of audience enjoyment, the realistic perfs are a problem. Two things work to offset the brittle state of the cast – script-twists, and superb cinematography.

The screenplay is by Luke Passmore. He’s written previously for TV (the Teen Wolf series), and for a short (BAD BLOOD DAYS). He builds tension and looming crisis into scenes, then spins the focus around, and by midway we know that we do not know exactly where it’s heading, which keeps the narrative in forward drive mode. I don’t want to say much more about this, since spoilers would be unfair to one of the film’s strengths.

I recently watched THE WILD GEESE (Severin), a fun action film provided by a witty cast, which was, however, undistinguished by its cinematography. Here we have pretty much the opposite. Every shot by Boris Mojsovski is striking – beautifully composed and framed, dramatically lit, an integral part of the whole mosaic. It’s a relentless pleasure on a visual level. The editing by Andrew Coutts takes the DP’s work and tightens it to a fine web.

In addition, the Production Design by Lisa Soper and Art Direction by Shane Boucher are fittingly derelict and yet strikingly aesthetic.

Despite having tasted one too many End of the World cocktails in recent years, I stuck with it till the end, and at the very end we’re given one more head-spinning twist. The filmmakers knew it would be the perfect image to send us out of the film with, and it worked its magic. Stick it through till the end, and get slammed.

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