Saturday, November 03, 2012

The Day is Catastrophic in More Ways Than One: A Movie Review

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Director: Douglas Aarniokoski.

Writers: Luke Passmore.

Cast: Shawn Ashmore, Ashley Bell, Michael Eklund, Cory Hardrict, Dominic Monaghan, Shannyn Sossamon, Brianna Barnes and Kassidy Verreault.

Tagline: "Fight. Or die."

The tagline for The Day (above) sums up the film well. It is simple and ungrammatical, or poorly written. Characters are drab and motivations are sparse. This indie production is also very static in setting. Almost all of the film's runtime is spent on a dilapidated farmhouse. A cannibalistic antagonist adds little menace and even less intelligence compared to five survivors who are constantly on the run. A post-apocalyptic set semi-thriller, The Day is almost a non-event.

The story focuses on five characters. They are survivors of an unnamed global catastrophe. Writer Luke Passmore seems to be taking some license with Cormac McCarthy's The Road. With that aside, these characters have been surviving for 10 years with little to eat and little time for rest. They are desperate. Fortunately, for the plot, there is an impetus. Adam (Shawn Ashmore), Mary (Ashley Bell), Rick (Dominic Monaghan), Henson (Cory Hardrict) and Shannon (Shannyn Sossamon) are being chased by cannibals! The end.

If this plot structure sounds simple, that is because it is. There is not enough meat in this script to keep events truly interesting. Only one character is given some backstory, Mary. The others are simple cardboard cutouts. They are flat and flimsy. For instance, the antagonist is completely laughable. Only known as the Father (Michael Eklund), this villain takes inadequacy to new heights. How does one become a leader if they do not know how to fight? The Father seems ill-prepared to face five starving misfits with fifty of his men. The script for The Day required many more subplots, deeper characterizations and inter-group conflict to keep events alive and interesting. The villain needed more of both darkness and wits, as well.

Apparently, the Father has not heard of Sun Tzu. Sun Tzu is an ancient Chinese military strategist whose works have been utilized both in warfare and business. After the Father has his quarry just where he wants, trapped in the farmhouse, he self-destructs. When facing the enemy, keep your forces whole (Tzu). Instead, the Father sends his troops in piecemeal. First three of this troops go to their bloody death, then five and ten and so on. Is there no military college for cannibals? Also, during a night attack, this character does not use fire. Tzu would suggest fire attacks at night to smoke out the enemy. Instead, the Father uses fire during the day. By this time it is too late. There is little intelligence to find in any of the film's action sequences.

The Day is an action film with very little heart nor complex structure. All of the film's conceits are used to keep characters stationary, so that production costs are kept at a minimum. All of the plotlines lead back to the farmhouse. Characters are kept sparse for the same purpose. The writing for this feature is a huge let down. Characters are shallow across the board. Only Mary is given any true purpose and a reason to fight. All of the others are just waiting for an exit before the final credits roll.

While the action sequences in The Day are plentiful, many are hard to see. Night shoots are abnormally hard to film and some fire or light sources would have gone a long way to make the climax viewable.

This film is the second in a trilogy and perhaps the other stories will fill in many of the gaps in this tepid outing. As Tzu would say of life's many paths: "there are [some] roads which must not be followed." The Day offers just such a road.

Overall: 6 out of 10.

Don't take this critic's word for it:

The Day Reviewed at Quiet Earth (Rochefort)

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