I wanted to like Douglas Aarniokoski’s The Day, I really did. The stills looked awesome. The action promised to take place almost solely at an abandoned farm house, and regular readers will know that I absolutely LOVE films that use a single location effectively. The film also had a few big names in the cast and an all Canadian crew, what’s not to like? Quite a bit, it turns out. The Day is a generic post-apocalyptic film that holds its cards very close to the chest until the final scenes, at which point it is too little too late.
The film tells the story of a group of five survivors (Shawn Ashmore, Ashley Bell, Cory Hardrict, Dominic Monaghan and Shannyn Sossamon) on the run from an unknown enemy. The earth they traverse is a dead world that doesn’t even seem to be populated by small furry animals any longer, let alone other human beings. An illness of one of the survivors forces the group to take refuge in a desolate farm house for the night. Internal conflicts begin to eat at the group from the inside, while a siege of the farmhouse threatens to destroy them from the outside. Unfortunately, this interesting premise turned into an exercise in patience, as I waited for the group of survivors to die and the credits to roll.
I feel bad being hard on this film because it was clearly a labour of love for some, director Aarniokoski for example, but was not taken nearly as seriously by others, Shannyn Sossamon and writer Luke Passmore in particular. The acting in The Day was inconsistent throughout the entire film. What I’m sure was supposed to be the lack of hope that comes with a post-apocalyptic world, came across as an absurd calm in the actors that was comical at times. Sossamon’s lines in particular sounded like they were from a screen test. She should have just joined the rest of the cast and crew via Skype during filming, I’m sure it would have been just as effective. However, the real culprit behind the ineffectiveness of The Day was the script.
The intriguing set up and ingenious trap at the beginning of the film are completely wasted, as the script completely falls apart when the central characters must meaningfully interact. Relationships and allegiances change at the drop of a dime, profanity is exchanged to simply fill the silence, there are an inordinate number of pointy sticks used as weapons in the film, and the token black guy delivers stereotypical lines. However, these aren’t even the most enraging aspects of the script.
Ammo conservation is a constant topic between the characters, after all, where are they going to get more? Then why o’ why do two of the main characters unload their last 4-5 shots into a group of harmless baddies that have gotten stuck in the basement of the farmhouse, when there are plenty of armed baddies still outside? Have they never played Resident Evil before? Conserve your damn ammo or you’re dead! At the same time, maybe they are aware of the importance of ammo, at least if they were it would explain why the main characters never miss a shot with their guns! One maddening scene in particular has a feverish Cory Hardrict seeing in blurry double vision, yet he still manages to pull off what seems like three head-shots in rapid succession. Add to this a cowardly lead villain that is probably afraid of his own shadow, hence his reluctance to attack the heroes himself, and you have a script that should have been lucky to be considered a first draft.
Finally, I do actually have some good things to day about The Day. The colour palette and set design of the film are appropriately bleak and manage to absorb the viewer into the deserted world. Also, the action at the finale is quite good and shows what the special effects crew and Aarniokoski are capable of. It is unfortunate that they waited until the end as it may have made the script more tolerable if these accomplished action scenes and effects were scattered throughout the film.
If you are a fan of post-apocalyptic films then you may enjoy The Day. In particular fans who vehemently defend post-apocalyptic films, while being impervious to reason and other points of view should love it. If on the other hand you merely dabble in post-apocalyptic films, like myself, then steer clear of this one and go watch Road Warrior or play Fallout 3 to get your fix.