‘Darkest Day’ Channels ’28 Days Later’ but Won’t Win You Over in the Same Way (Review)
Written by: Daniel Hadley
Directed by: Dan Rickard
Cast: Dan Rickard, Chris Wandell, Samantha Butler
Bearing an incredibly strong resemblance to 28 Days Later, and even having some very similar music cues, Darkest Days does very little to set itself apart from its obvious inspiration. It’s almost as if this were a high quality fan film: from its shooting style down to its rage induced infected killers, this could almost act as a spiritual sequel of sorts.
So our main character, Dan wakes up on the beach sporting a sixties hairdo and some groovy flared jeans – a risky look to attempt in 2016, and fortunately for us he really doesn’t pull it off. So looking like a secret member of the Beatles and having some plot convenient amnesia Dan heads into the city. Now credit where credit is due: the filmmakers have done a great job of making the city streets look abandoned, and throughout the film there is some very impressive set dressing. This really does look like a city that’s be through a rage virus like plague. In the opening ten minutes or so is where Darkest Days really gives of a 28 Days Later vibe, from the music to the visual style, it’s very clear the filmmakers took cues from Danny Boyle’s film. There’s also a prominent shot of a store called Garland, for those who don’t know, Alex Garland wrote the screenplay for 28 Days Later. Whether that’s intentional or not, it stuck out to me.
After Dan has done the obligatory wondering around in a confused manner he comes across a couple of survivors. After the three of them are attacked (the attack sequence is shot and edited incredibly similarly to 28 Days Later) Dan and his new friends make their way to a house where a group of survivors are holed up. It’s here that we are introduced to the rest of the characters, most of which are fodder for the infected. But we do get tough guy, Sam. Now Sam has the most baffling accent I have ever heard, it’s like an Australian doing an impression of an American attempting a bad British accent… it’s so odd but very entertaining to listen to. Another thing of note about these survivors is their incredible lack of concern for the very dangerous infected lurking outside. They spend most of their time listening to loud music and drinking copious amounts of alcohol. For a group who have survived a rage infected outbreak they show a great deal of apathy when it comes to their continued survival, so after Dan gets settled in, some military intervention causes the group to flee their safe house and head out of the city.
The acting is pretty hit and miss, but that’s forgivable. The camerawork is very shaky which is always a pain, especially when the camera is literally shaking for no reason. Shaking the camera around while you film doesn’t make your film look cool or gritty, it’s just fucking annoying.
On to the positives: the effects are pretty good, and it seems as though the filmmakers had access to some real military vehicles, as there are some impressive shots of some chinook choppers ferrying troops back and forth, and there is no obvious low grade CGI, which is always commendable as lower budget movies often rely on this. Sadly, that only serves to take you out of the movie. Perfect example? The same horrendous CGI blood effects that (seeming) every god damned low budget horror seems to over use again and again (you know the one I’m talking about). So aside from overly shaky camera work and some wooden acting it’s a pretty impressive production overall.
Darkest Days falls down with its story in as much as there really isn’t much of one. The group holed up from zombies soon find themselves running from the military. There are some revelations with Dan, but nothing that wasn’t glaringly obvious. The characters are much like the story in that there really isn’t any characterization, so we’re left with a group that feel very bland. And when some of them meet a sticky end, I just continued to stare dead eyed at the screen without so much as a blink to mourn there passing. These downfalls are a shame because with some better character development and some story tweaks this could have been something more than just another low budget zombie/rage infected horror movie. But as is we have a passable, mildly entertaining movie with some impressive set dressing.
To wrap this up I’ll say that if you haven’t had your fill of zombie or rage infected horror then give this movie a go. To all others looking for something more, Darkest Days probably won’t really do anything for you.
Thanks for taking the time to review the film. I’m the producer and co-director and glad it gave you entertainment (regardless of how that entertainment was come by!). I would recommend the making of on the DVD for a bit more context how we made the film, which was entertaining in its own right! It was only intended as a short film to try out visual effects over weekends with no script (which shows, it’s fair to say!), then grew as a feature over several years.
The “Garland” shop was indeed a nod to 28 Days Later (there is also “Boyle’s sweets” in the background) as we found it funny to nod to that great film that we shamelessly ripped off… If you have any other questions please feel free to get in touch. Always happy to chat about how much we cobbled it all together as we made it up.
Thanks for taking the time to review the film. I’m the producer and co-director and glad it gave you some entertainment (regardless of how that entertainment was come by!). I would recommend the making of on the DVD for a bit more context how we made the film, which was entertaining in its own right! It was only intended as a short film to try out visual effects over weekends with no script (which shows, it’s fair to say!), then grew as a feature over several years.
The “Garland” shop was indeed a nod to 28 Days Later (there is also “Boyle’s sweets” in the background) as we found it funny to nod to that great film that we shamelessly ripped off… If you have any other questions please feel free to get in touch. Always happy to chat about how much of an entertaining bodge it was.