Ginger Nuts of Horror
What Dan Rickard did with his weekends: Darkest Day.
The plot here is something rather familiar, it’s the ‘Rage Virus’ type of Zombie film taking much of the general feel of ‘28 Days Later’, which in this film is solely set in a somewhat apocalyptic version of Brighton.
So we’ve seen it all before?
Well yes, it’s a Zombie film, so it’s not as if there’s much leeway for anything truly original, however I am more than impressed by this film as it does bring something clever to the mix in that the majority of the film’s dialogue is unscripted. That could actually be disastrous, especially with a majority cast who have little or no acting experience, however it is a major boon in this film as the interaction between the actors is so fluid and genuine that it’s almost as if I had pulled up a chair and was watching real events through their window. Plot-wise it is almost like the majority:
A ‘neurological virus’ wipes out half of the country.
Dan (Dan Rickard) wakes up soaking wet on Brighton Beach, he has memory loss. He makes his way into the city, the roads are deserted. This takes place to a musical score slightly reminiscent of the main them from 28 Days Later, it’s a good score ably created by one of the actors (Richard ‘Wilx’ Wilkinson).
Initially I was concerned by the apparent lack of a ‘Steadicam’ and by an often blurring focus, but it’s not so bad that it prevents enjoyment, far from it as it actually somewhat aids the pace and feel of the film later on, giving it a suitably frenetic energy. There’s also a practical reason for that lack of Steadicam as Dan Rickard made this film over the course of several years worth of weekends and with a general budget of £1,000, not as though that’s obvious as this film is quite easily on a par with considerably more expensive films.
15 minutes in and the film is actually very natural, the initial shakiness has abated and for reasons I won’t go into as I don’t want to give any spoilers Dan is now in the company of a bunch of survivors, it’s not the general mixed bag of ages, these are a bunch of friends in their 20s who are very relaxed with one-another, which gives rise to some great moments throughout. Dan isn’t made welcome by Sam (Chris Wandell), the macho asshole of the bunch, who succeeds in making himself so unpopular I couldn’t wait for him to croak.
Having established that there’s a natural feeling to this film there was a downside initially, it’s only a small niggle but I found the music was a little too intrusive toward the beginning of the film when there were group conversations, yet it does give a more realistic vibe to the film as some people like to play it loud.
There are fun moments early on, so within 20 minutes I’m a fan of the film. There’s not a lot in the way of zombies by this stage but enough of their presence to have kept it going. The characters themselves are a great bunch of supporting roles, Sam’s sister Adi (played by Chris Wandell’s sister Adrienne) has a couple of truly memorable scenes, one of which was just so realistic that I felt sorry for the other person involved. (I’ll say no more on that). The main female role is Kate (Samantha Bolter) who comes across as a really sympathetic character, attempting to make Dan feel more welcome than the others have. It does seem character driven, but I need not have worried about anything regarding pace as the film soon gets into it’s stride, it has the usual Zombie attacks, lots of running away while being chased by a bunch of crazies and of course the ubiquitous Military presence.
The action scenes are plentiful and well handled, and the general atmosphere of the film is highly absorbing. It’s a very ‘real world’ film which I was totally taken into. There are many films, not just Zombie ones, which are absolutely apparent that they have no real concept of the ordinary, yet Darkest Day gives a great sense that this not only could happen to you, but that it already did.
This is a gritty production, even in a somewhat over-saturated genre Darkest Day still managed to hold my attention, and in all honesty it did something which a lot of the Zombie offerings of late have failed to do, it made me give a damn about the characters and what happens to them. Compare this to the 190 Million Dollar 3D Epic ‘World War Z’ and in absolute honesty I’d rather watch Darkest Day again, several times. It does so much with so little that it’s practically masterful. When I first started watching it I was wondering how the hell some of the scenes in it were done, and I can only hope that when this comes to DVD and BLU Ray they include the ‘Making of’ material as it made me even more of a fan. Dan Rickard puts on several hats for this film; he not only stars in it but is the Director and handles the special effects so perfectly that I didn’t spot the majority of his CGI work.
I’ll leave it there for now, but as a follow-on I will soon be presenting an article and interviews relating to this mini-masterpiece.
Darkest Day is a genuine labour of love, and it will Premiere in London:
UK CINEMA SCREENING DATES
LONDON, NOTTING HILL (Premiere)
Monday 11th May. The Gate 21:00.
Sunday 24th May. No6 Cinema 14:00.
Monday 25th April. Duke's At Komedia. 21:00.
Tuesday 26th May. Stratford East Picturehouse 20:30.
Tickets can be booked on OurScreen
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