DARKEST DAY (2015)
Directed by Dan Rickard
A young man wakes up on the beach alone and finds his town of Brighton deserted. When he finally bumps into fellow humans, they’re running for their life from infected humans roaming the streets, crazed from a virus that has spread across the town. Only a few humans remain, immune from the virus, shacked up in a terraced house away from the eyes of the blood-hungry infected. Unwilling at first to accept the newcomer into their home, the group of survivors finally relent but it’s not long before they’re forced to flee their safehaven. It’s not just the infected they have to worry about, but also the army who won’t be satisfied until every single one of them is dead.
British indie survival horror DARKEST DAY started life as a visual effects project but 10 years down the line and with a miniscule budget of £1000, the film has developed into a debut feature film from director Dan Rickard, who also stars as lead character Dan who awakens into this hell-hole of a world where people don’t live – they survive or die.
DARKEST DAY starts off pretty strong as the audience discovers what the heck is going on in Brighton. Those familiar with zombie movies or even just Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later will know exactly what the score is. Allies are quickly established even if Dan isn’t exactly welcomed with open arms. A place to stay with other humans isn’t something to be sniffed at but rather than a mix of age groups, the survivors consist of young men and women who’s idea of continuing mankind’s fight against the infected is to doss around all day and get drunk. If you’re looking for a movie with a plan of action or motivation, then this isn’t it. The characters here are only driven by a force of necessity – they’ll only leave their digs when the military starts blowing chunks out of the door and their flesh!
With a mixed bag of performances, the characters struggle to keep the viewer interested. Weak character development means we hardly get to know the characters apart from a couple of odd passions (Top Trumps and Treasure Island anyone?) and their personalities aren’t allowed to shine. Even the lead character fails to engage with the viewer with his self-confessed inability to generate riveting conversation. I get that he’s meant to be seen as normal or average, nothing special setting him apart from anyone else, but as a lead character, it often requires some unique quality which is missing here. Out of all the cast, Samantha Bolter stands out as independent Kate, a potential love interest who’s the first to befriend Dan when he arrives at their house. Her level-headed approach to their situation is a breath of fresh air and she’s often the first to inquire about the safety of those around her, almost taking a mothering role of the group.
The footage of the infected, from their bloodied and crazed appearance to the way in which it is edited, makes for an intense watch. The threat of these people feels scarily real but the overuse of shaky cam made my head swirl a bit. These are no doubt the scariest scenes of the movie, with little else in the way of horror besides the infected. The focus is mainly on the intentions of the military, the threat they pose and that of the infected. Sooner or later, either the military or the infected will catch up with them.
DARKEST DAY might be flawed in places, but the essence of the movie is quite strong. Quality use of camera shots, editing, sound and lighting highlight the proficiency of the filmmaking team and their ambition. With a tighter, focused plot, character development, better talent and an engaging script, this film would have been a force to be reckoned with. As it currently stands, DARKEST DAY offers some tense scenes but not enough to keep you on the edge of your seat.