Directed by Dan Rickard, Starring: Dan Rickard, Chris Wandell, Samantha Bolter. Horror, UK, 2015, 90mins, cert 15.
DVD release on 25th May 2015 by Left Films.
Washed up on a deserted Brighton beach with no memory of how he got there, Dan (Dan Rickard) stumbles into the debris-strewn burnt out town. A devastating neurological virus has swept across the land - resulting in a zombie plague. After a chance encounter following a zombie-skirmish, he falls in with a small group of survivors who are hiding out in a small terrace house; plundering food and booze from nearby supermarkets and dodging the occasional rampaging zombie. But there is also a military presence in the town, and it soon becomes apparent that their mission is to hunt him down. Can Dan and his new found friends find sanctuary in the out of town ‘safe camps’ before the soldiers find him – and just why is he the army’s number one priority...?
Filmed largely over spare weekends, this micro-budgeted project (£1,000) originally started out way back in 2006 - when director Dan Rickard was just 19 years old. Enlisting the help and endless goodwill and perseverance of his friends (not to mention the occasional 50 or so volunteer zombie extras), it’s a minor miracle that the film actually got completed at all. What’s more surprising still is that it hangs together reasonably well and flows far smoother than its protracted production history would suggest. Combining a shooting schedule not too dissimilar to Peter Jackson’s first feature BAD TASTE, with a DIY-like approach to the visual effects, Rickard’s achievement is certainly commendable purely from a logistics point of view.
However, both his choice of subject matter and the largely improvised script upon which he hangs some (admittedly) impressive images on in amongst the shaky-cam approach to action, is far too much 28 DAYS LATER reliant and offers little in the way of originality in an already vastly over-populated zombie apocalypse ravaged sub-genre.
Visually though there are some strikingly effective images including a seemingly deserted road junction strewn with burnt out vehicles, (actually filmed in the middle of the day in between traffic incursions), and a derailed commuter train. There’s also some seamless additional CG soldiers (Rickard only had 3 army uniforms at his disposal). The Chinook (?) military helicopter shots (achieved using a model) are admirably resourceful – albeit displaying a tad too much manoeuvrability me thinks (but I’m no helicopter expert).
The zombies run full-pelt at the camera with often little more make-up applied than a smattering of red paint. There is a very brief glimpse of gut munching but nothing really juicy for gorehounds to salivate over.
At one point in the film, the survivors find themselves playing a game of cat and mouse with the tracking soldiers in a fully-stocked branch of the now defunct Blockbuster rental chain. It’s an amusing anachronism which seems somewhat appropriate given that Blockbuster and DARKEST DAY are essentially both examples of outdated concepts whose respective shelf-lives have now expired.
But I’ve reviewed far worse, far bigger-budgeted flicks recently, so DARKEST DAY gets a (generous) three-stars rather than my increasingly common two-star rating of late.
Extras: Commentary, trailers, making of.
***(out of 5*)