The efficient, vicious siege movie "The Day" hides a couple of cards up its sleeve for the first third of its running time--namely, the mysterious threat that has a band of five travelers on the road, on the run, hungry, tired, and sick after what is apparently some kind of widespread catastrophe. And while the final reveal may come with some small amount of disappointment, the greater part of "The Day" is one of those unexpected little horror gems--full of surprising character work, an intriguing end of the world scenario, and a final, tense and bloody siege.
We first meet our five weary travelers as they trudge down the open road. They're dirty, low on ammo, and one of them is dealing with a cough that can't be any good. Was it some kind of virus or plague that set them on their way? How they ended up traveling together and what they're running from is one of the things that slowly emerges during the course of the film.
The group is made up of some familiar faces, but don't expect to see most or maybe even all of them through the end of the movie: there's Dominic Monaghan as the unofficial leader Rick, Shawn Ashmore's Adam who's lost all hope of their making it to any kind of sanctuary, Shannyn Sossamon's Shannon who tries to play peacemaker to the group, Cory Hardrict's friend to Rick and Adam who's slowly succumbing to illness, and the new addition to the group, Mary (Ashley Bell). Mary doesn't talk much, but she's deadly with a knife or a shotgun and she might be keeping her own secrets from the group. These five arrive at an abandoned farmhouse, and hope to at least spend the night and recuperate, maybe scavenge the area for food after who knows how long on the road.
The characters don't have much in the way of depth, but they're revealed in a gradual way that allows us to care for them and worry about not only their lives but their souls when they're faced with death and some major upheavals in the second act.
It's hard to talk about the second and third acts without talking about what could be described, for lack of a better word, as the predators stalking our heroes, but it's an interesting direction director Luke Passmore chose for the story at this point. I think it would be a stretch to say that when they're revealed they're a disappointment, but they're unexpected in a way that doesn't quite serve the tension of the rest of the movie (it's not zombies, thankfully). A lot of questions remain by the end like "What are their powers, if any," and how are they different from our survivors. I keep coming back to "I Am Legend" (no, they're not vampires) and that book's conclusion as maybe where the script was coming from.
Douglas Aarniokoski chose to crib from "The Road" with its washed out, grimy palette, almost to the point of monochrome (save for two or three flashbacks in full color). It's a solid stylistic choice, but it's inconsistent, with different color tones throughout taking the image from grey to brown, to orange-ish in some scenes, something that would make more sense if these scenes were somehow thematically or tonally different in some dramatic way to justify the color shifts. As it stands, it looks like a series of color process errors.
Still, who knew the movie would work out as well as it has? I hadn't heard much about it in horror movie circles since it was made last year, and its from the WWE's film studio, the company that tried to give us Kane as the lead in a would-be slasher franchise. "The Day" was a pleasant and welcome surprise in the post-apocalyptic genre and technical problems aside, it's worth your time.
Besides a commentary track featuring director Aarniokoski, you'll also get trailers from other Anchor Bay releases.
"The Day" will be available on DVD and Blu-ray November 27th from Anchor Bay Films.