The apocalypse is bad enough, but throw in a pack of starving cannibals that like to attack in numbers? Man, could things get any worst? Turns out, yes — when a member of a survivalist group is revealed not to be who they said they were, a secret that could get them all killed. Or turn into snacks. Possibly both. That is the situation the five characters of Douglas Aarniokoski’s post-apocalyptic “The Day” find themselves in, as their would-be salvation, a farmhouse in the middle of nowhere, turns out to be their last stand.
“The Day” is a meshing of two genres that I’ve always been a sucker for — post-apocalyptic movies and last stand films. The film is set 10 years after some unexplored cataclysm has turned America into “The Road Warrior”, minus the guys in hockey masks and souped up muscle cars. We follow high school buddies Rick (“Lost’s” Dominic Monaghan), Adam (Shawn Ashmore), and Henson (“Battle: Los Angeles'” Cory Hardrict), along with their gal pal Shannon (Shannyn Sossamon, affecting some kind of strange Southern accent) and newest member Mary (a riotously badass Ashley Bell) as they seek shelter from the harsh apocalyptic conditions. Showers are rare, food is scarce, and to top it off, Henson is coughing up a storm. So they hole up in that aforementioned farmhouse, hoping for a new start. Turns out, it’s a trap, and soon cannibals led by Father (Michael Eklund) are knocking at their doors.
I’ve been anticipating “The Day” for a while now, and although it doesn’t meet all my expectations, it’s nevertheless a pretty kickass post-apocalyptic/last stand flick. Aarniokoski (directing from a script by Luke Passmore) doesn’t really bring anything new to the genres, and he is for the most part working with an extremely limited budget. Frankly, the talent in front of the camera is the film’s biggest asset, though Aarniokoski stages the film’s very brutal action well enough — when you can actually see them, anyway. I honestly can’t tell you what was happening at any given time for long stretches of the film’s middle section, which takes place almost entirely at night. Aarniokoski certainly doesn’t shy away from the red stuff, as the movie features plenty of death by sharp objects, often in the most brutal fashion.
Ashley Bell (of “The Last Exorcism” fame and its upcoming sequel) is easily the single best thing about this film. If Mad Max and Bell’s Mary ever had a baby, it might just be the most badass thing that ever walked a post-apocalyptic world. A loner who ended up with the close-knit friends not all that long ago, she’s the outcast, the one who doesn’t speak much, but the way she carries her shotgun, you get the feeling she’s got history with fighting for her life. True enough, when the fit hits the shan, it’s Mary who takes the offensive, chopping down Father’s rabid army of cannibals like she’s taking a Sunday picnic stroll. Speaking of which, the cannibals really aren’t all that scary. While their intent to eat you is unpleasant, they’re kinda shitty fighters. It’s a good thing there’s a lot of them, then.
“The Day” is certainly one of the more uncompromising films in the genre, and hats off to Aarniokoski and Passmore for not giving a damn about making any of the characters all that likeable. Everyone’s sour disposition is completely understandable given the situation they find themselves in and have been in for the last 10 years. Indeed, the only character with any shred of optimism is Dominic Monaghan’s Rick, the leader of the group. Rick insists on reminiscing about their old (and presumed dead) high school friends, while Adam would rather just get on with the business of surviving at all cost, though to look at him, survival is the least of Adam’s needs at the moment. The film actually opens with Adam losing his family and how this affects him for the duration of the movie. Spoiler: it affects him a lot.
If you’re wondering, no, we never get an answer as to what caused the film’s apocalypse. There isn’t even much of a hint, to tell you the truth. We do know that much of the world’s population have died of starvation in the intervening 10 years, and that in order to survive, you either do what our fivesome does — which is hunt for food, try to live off the land — or you form your own cannibal army and, well, dine on people like our fivesome. After a while, I stopped caring how the apocalypse came to be, because “The Day” seems uninterested in exploring that topic. Truth be told, it doesn’t really matter. “The Day” is an effective slice of survival thriller, and fans of the genre have a lot to like about it. Dare we hope for “The Day 2”? We dare, we dare…
“The Day” arrives on DVD/Blu-ray November 27th from Anchor Bay Films.
Douglas Aarniokoski (director) / Luke Passmore (screenplay)
CAST: Shawn Ashmore … Adam
Ashley Bell … Mary
Michael Eklund … Father
Cory Hardrict … Henson
Dominic Monaghan … Rick
Shannyn Sossamon … Shannon