(MA) Anchor Bay Entertainment DVD/BD
Post-apocalyptic thriller The Day depicts a bleak future where civilised society has all but broken down completely due to unspecified causes.
We follow a small group of five survivors, who stumble upon a seemingly abandoned farmhouse in their search for food and shelter while evading unseen predators.
Their brief respite ends abruptly as they accidentally trigger an alarmed trap set by the predators, eventually revealed to be tribes of humans who have turned to organised cannibalism to survive. Outnumbered and surrounded, they must make a last stand through the night against former fellow human beings.
The first third of The Day is promising in its open focus on the individuals in the group, their hopes for a better future and despair at present calamities. However, as group members die and escalating in-group hostilities (including a very gruesome knife torture scene) and tense stand-offs with the cannibal tribe threaten to erupt into chaotic melees, the scenario is set for maximum adrenaline-fuelled bloody carnage.
Unfortunately, The Day quickly begins to suffer from the same “shoot-now-don’t-ask-later” syndrome that plagues films such as Looper and Sucker Punch. We are bombarded with an overabundance of highly stylised violence for one-and-a-half hours in an attempt to distract us from the lack of forethought and unexplained contradictions in the bleak, futuristic scenario.
Slick production values and action sequences do little to salvage the sketchy plot. Plot points are raised half-heartedly then inexplicably allowed to die. The characters are not developed well enough for us to care much about what happens to them, making what little growth there is to ring false.
Likewise, attempts at deeper observation into the nature and morality of human self-preservation and society are few and far between. This is disappointing for a film in this genre, which originated as a means of cynical commentary on human society.
It was refreshing, however, to finally see female characters able to do their fair share of fighting, steering away from the useless-damsel-in-distress female archetype so annoyingly overused in survival-horror ensembles.
What I love about post-apocalyptic survival horror/dystopian future films is the unique opportunity they can present for us to explore not only a hypothetical worst-case-scenario vision of the future, but also a hypothetical worst-case-scenario vision of ourselves as human beings when faced with catastrophe.
However, The Day, thanks largely to its skimping on plot in favour of gratuitous bloodshed, does not deliver much of either.
The consequence of this is a film that will provide good mindless entertainment for a rainy Saturday evening and satiate the casual viewer’s bloodlust. Veterans of the genre who have come to expect something meatier will leave feeling empty.