Where lights still shine in post-zombie apocalypse England
by TS Alan
Dan wakes up on a beach with no memory. He discovers an empty city ravaged by a deadly virus. After befriending a small group of survivors it soon becomes clear the army is hunting him down, and the group is forced on a dangerous journey to escape.
Darkest Day, is obviously heavily inspired by 28 Days Later. The story starts with Dan (Dan Rickard), a young man who awakens on a beach, the segment structured like the beginning of Danny Boyle & Alex Garland’s cinematic masterpiece, except set in Brighton not London. At times director Dan Rickard’s Darkest Day feels like 28 Days Later. Scenes of Brighton in ruin almost directly emulate its inspiration, but there is not enough influence drawn from the Boyle/Garland film to make it as edgy or genuinely terrifying, and not enough twist-and-turns in the narrative to make it truly engaging.
Shortly after Dan wanders into Brighton, still confused by the devastation he is seeing, he runs into two survivors, and they are subsequently attacked. Lisa survives and takes Dan back to her hideout, which is occupied by a group of boorish twenty-somethings, who are more interested in hanging out in their flat drinking beer and eating crisps, instead of planning for the future or properly securing their domicile. They eventually find it necessary to go shopping, so they head out to the local grocery store and run into trouble with the infected as well as the military, who are looking for Dan.
The next part is where I lost interest in the film, but knew I had to keep watching for review sake. After breaking into the store’s basement, they walk a corridor where fluorescent lights are on. Okay, I can forgive the sometimes shaky camera and out of focus picture. I can also overlook the light that was glowing on an apartment entry, after all, it could have been solar-powered. However, I cannot dismiss the corridor lights when there were no other lights on in the building or power anywhere. Not one character questioned or made comment about the power being on. I blame this poorly shot sequence on the inexperience of director/cinematographer/writer Rickard, who clearly could not think of away to light the busy scene. But I digress.
Later the group is forced from their flat by the military, who chase the remaining of the group through the countryside. Eventually the military catch up, and in one scene Dan is able to out wit and forcibly subdue a soldier. The soldier reveals who Dan is and why he is being pursued. Dan was a test subject for the cure who escaped and fell over a cliff into the sea. The test cure he had received mutated the virus inside him, making him a carrier and transmitter of the new disease, posing the greatest threat to the remainder of the human race. In the end Dan comes to grips with the only possible outcome of his dire situation, returning to the beach where he first awoke.
Darkest Day is reported to have started off as a student project with a nanoscale budget of £1000 ($1500 US), a cast of first-time amateurs and took seven years to make, four years for filming with another three for post-production. It was never going to be the next World War Z, but it could have been better, and its rough, low-budget feel is not the issue. The issue lies with the lack of film making experience of both cast and crew in tackling a large-scale project as an initial film.
First time director/writer Dan Rickard has accomplished a lot considering the budgetary constraints, and the film is not without atmosphere and some great practical effects. He has also certainly put in a lot of hard work and love into Darkest Day, unfortunately it is not enough to make it memorable. With a larger budget and more experience Rickard has the potential for becoming an excellent filmmaker, and I look forward to viewing his next project.
Directed by Dan Rickard
Screenplay by Will Martin and Dan Rickard
Cast: Dan Rickard, Chris Wandell, Samantha Bolter, Richard Wilkinson, Christianne van Wijk, Christian Wise, Simon Drake
Run Time: 90 minutes
Release Date: On DVD in UK.