Fantastic Fest Review: The Day

10 Oct

Somehow, in the past few years, post-apocalyptic movies have been running a close second to vampire films.  Maybe it’s the general sense that there is very little hope for this society to continue at the pace we have set for it.  Maybe it’s just that post-apocalyptic movies are usually pretty fun to watch.  And maybe it’s just the guarantee that you are not going to have a glamorous male model posing as a monster showing up at any point.  But regardless, the rift left by the end of the original Mad Max trilogy seems to have been closed.  We had The Road and The Book of Eli, the announcement that Mad Max himself will be making a return, a handful of other films, and now we have The Day.

Some of you may be thinking that this looks like a simple replay of those previously mentioned films, and to be honest with you, I was worried about this myself.  It looks to be a simple formula rehashed once again.  Our heroes are some of the only decent people left in North America.  The other people that are still alive have devolved into cannibalistic tribes that hunt the only animal that is left alive:  other people.  A situation arises where the protagonists have stopped traveling, in this case one of them is sick and they find an old house to shelter in.  Complications arise and they are left fighting for their lives.

As I said, pretty standard stuff.  And yet this film stands apart from the crowd.  I would even go so far as to say that I haven’t enjoyed a good post-apocalyptic romp like I did this one since The Road Warrior.  And that is high praise coming from me.

Part of the difference is the characters themselves.  The relationships between them all feel real.  To the extant that when the inevitable line of cheesy dialogue does pop up, it slides by as banter between friends.  The losses these people have experienced are real, and the dedication to what is now their family seems equally as concrete.

Two things help the expert characterization along.  First, the bad guys are neither brainless animalistic drones, nor caricatures of villains from a Civil War film, which is are the two normal choices for a post-apocalypse story.  Instead, screen-writer Luke Passmore, on his first feature film no less, gives us fully realized, three dimensional antagonists.  Men and women trying to survive.  Fathers raising children in a world gone completely mad.  And that is truly a stroke of genius.

Secondly, we have an entire cast and crew that are willing to do things that are completely unexpected.  Passmore and director Doug Aarniokoski bring us a story full of surprises.  And not just typical “surprises”.  Twenty minutes into this film I realized that they could do absolutely anything and I would no longer be expecting it.

In addition to the story, we have actors that worked for nothing so that they could be a part of a movie of this quality.  In the Q&A session after the screening I was at, Dominic Monaghan said that no one on this film was paid to the extent that you could call it that.  Plus, just watch the opening credits; co-stars Dominic Monaghan and Shawn Ashmore were the co-producers of the movie.  When the actors involved believe in a film enough that they not only offer their services for a tiny fraction of the normal cost, but also help finance the movie and get their friends like Shannyn Sossamon to act with them, it makes you pay attention.

And for this movie in particular, you will be rewarded for the time you give it.  Its exciting, interesting, well-done, and, most importantly, fun.

Supposedly, this film will be released early next year.  I’m thinking January or February.  But if you absolutely have to have more before then, you can check out the Facebook page (which has some cool development artwork on it) right HERE.

-david

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2 Responses to “Fantastic Fest Review: The Day”

  1. Dustin October 11, 2011 at 11:08 am #

    This sounds pretty cool. Thanks for the heads up! I really liked The Road, the book so much and thought the movie captured it as well as could be expected. I feel like a lot of people our age, if forced to choose, would pick the post-apocalyptic genre to live out. It sounds awful in some ways, but there is unquestionable allure to a life devoid of debt, consumer culture, 9-5 jobs etc and full of just wandering around getting by (what a lot of people seem to be doing anyway.) I have heard people bring this up multiple times, point being it seems like we should have more quality films exploring/cashing in on the cultural zeitgeist in this genre.

    • iamhrothgar October 11, 2011 at 11:21 am #

      I totally agree. Its like the Zombie apocalypse, but more realistic. And slightly more appealing since there’s no chance of turning into a monster. You may get eaten, or killed, but you won’t be coming back to hurt your friends. And honestly, who hasn’t planned out what they would do in situations like this? We all have, and that’s part of the appeal of these movies.

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