THE DAY (2011) review
This review contains SPOILERS.
Ten years have passed since an unexplained global disaster, and civilization as we know it is in ruins. What little is left of humanity has been reduced to a harsh, nomadic day-to-day existence and scavenging for scarce food wherever it can be found. What’s worse, tribes of cannibals are also roaming the countryside looking for their next meal.
Writer Luke Passmore’s script for THE DAY never explains just how or why the world got into this mess, but instead focuses on one 24-hour period in the life of five survivors (Dominic Monaghan, Shannyn Sossamon, Ashley Bell, Cory Hardrict and and unrecognizable Shawn Ashmore). We meet three former high school buddies and two tag-along women they’ve met along the way who are journeying across a bleak landscape (it’s actually Ottawa, Canada) in search of a safe place to start over. When their leader Rick (Monaghan) decides that the group should take shelter from the pouring rain and spend the night in a ramshackle abandoned farmhouse, he also unwittingly walks them straight into a trap. The group attempts to make it through the night and deal with the cannibal threat waiting for them outside outside the house, and with each other’s fears and secrets inside, make up the bulk of director Douglas Aarniokoski’s post-apocalyptic thriller THE DAY.
After a slow, contemplative start and a good deal of suspenseful buildup involving a search of the house, major violence eventually erupts, of course. The group accidentally sets off a booby trap alarm in the basement and realize that the cannibals will soon be on their way. As is usual in a siege movie, several characters turn out to not be what they seem at first glance, and loyalties are tested to the max as the night progresses. Cringe-worthy scenes of brutality and tearing flesh are splashed with rapidity across the screen as actors and stunt people fall one by one into pools of their own fake blood. Not that these deaths weren’t creative, but after the first dozen or so kills I found myself becoming immune to the increasing level of violence, so much so that even the final somewhat surprising kill at the end felt a little anti-climatic.
Some of the major characters have expository scenes obviously designed to get the audience to identify with them, while others disappointingly get no back-story at all, and there is some attempt to humanize the inhuman cannibal leader as well. Because of this I was never quite sure whom I was supposed to root for! However the eventual bloody resolution presented in the film was quite satisfactory, as far as that went, and I was quite pleased that my pick for hero did indeed survive the night. I must add that the ending did give me pause for thought as to which group really had the right idea in the first place. I’m not sure that that was exactly what the director intended his audience to feel, but that’s what I found myself pondering once the credits started to roll.
I also enjoyed the unique experience of sitting behind both director Doug Aarniokoski and the producer Guy Danella while the film was shown at the Sarasota Film Festival on April 20th. Watching their anticipation of and amusement at the audience’s reactions to various scenes of violence in the movie was nothing if not enlightening. I stayed behind for the Q&A afterward where these two were joined by one of the movie’s stars, Dominic Monaghan (LORD OF THE RINGS, LOST), and Mike Luisi, newly named president of WWE Studios, which has picked up U.S. distribution rights to THE DAY. Luisi announced that the film will open in theaters nationwide on August 17th.
You can listen to THE DAY Q&A Session for yourself HERE. Warning: MAJOR SPOILERS for the movie in the 13-minute audio clip!! Director Doug Aarniokoski speaks first, the rest are introduced by the speakers themselves.