The post-apocalyptic thriller The Day yearns for basking in its atmospheric credibility while recalling dismal images of a landscape of desperation in a futuristic world wallowing in its debris-ridden misery. This is the premise for filmmaker Douglas Aarniokoski’s (“Highlander: Endgame”) grainy and gritty actioner. Although pensive in its doomsday presentation, The Day is a flat and gloomy dustbowl drama that forcefully drags in its caustic commentary on the borderline extinction of mankind and the mayhem that ensues.
Co-produced by the WWE Studios that is responsible for the colorfully animated antics of bouncy behemoths sacrificing their energetic massive bodies in the name of rousing entertainment one would hope that The Day would have some more pluckiness and pop to its dire horror show of global destruction.
One can appreciate Aarniokoski’s focus on a war-torn world where dreariness does not actually invite the flashy flourishes of CGI tongue-licking. Nevertheless, this is also not an excuse to concoct an 84-minute aimlessly thought-provoking B movie devoid of any vibrant color scheming or visionary vitality. The Day wants to ponder reflectively amid the calculated carnage that has overwhelmed the weary human consciousness. Sadly, the movie’s unevenness in poor acting, lackluster aesthetic polish, hammy take on cannibalism and disillusioned casualties all add up to another dull dramatization dressed in hackneyed forethought.
In what amounts to resemble a strained rip-off of 28 Days Later, the droopy Day tells the story of five detached and armed survivors trying to handle the ravaged realities of their dissipated playground. In the aftermath of the decade-old Armageddon, the haggard crew led by Rick (Dominic Monaghan) travel stoically among the ruins. The emphasis of the hostile surroundings is evidenced by the elaborate squalor that exists: dried-out carcasses, soiled and rocky roadways and burned-out shelters and vehicles as rotted waste.
Among Rick’s fellow wiped-out wanderers include his brother Adam (Shawn Ashmore), Mary (Ashley Bell), Shannon (Shannyn Sossamon) and high school buddy Henson (Cary Hardrict). The exhausted bunch decides to take up temporary residence at a remote farmhouse to freshen up. However, the pit-stop where they need a refreshed time out will prove quite revealing when Rick and company discover the sinister agenda of villainous Father (Michael Eklund) and his heinous pack of cannibals.
The notorious appearance of Father and his human hungry-snackers will cause conflict for poor Mary in particular. Mary, once part of the flesh-eating flock, must solidify her allegiance with her new comrades and downplay her former association with the skin-loving savages she once coveted with deadly devotion. With limited guns and plenty of fatigue Rick and his rag tag rogues must battle the warped wits of the devilish Father and the crafty cannibals.
The pedestrian direction by Aarniokoski marches his wilting warriors through what is supposed to be a grand scale of rage and ruination in the name of stimulating desaturation. Curiously, these gun-toting survivors (and the entire movie for that matter) display an inexplicable indifference towards the expected brutality and violence that one would expect to bombard an exposition about a world-ending deterioration. The Day is masked as a stillborn spectacle that has all the bite of a sleeping toothless pitbull.
Screenwriter Luke Passmore instills The Day with a serviceable amount of contemplation and a broad spotlight on man’s indelible mortality. Aside from the movie’s intentional dark and glum ambiance, The Day fails to register beyond the infrequent cheap-minded thrilling action despite its cannibalistic theme and sizeable body count. It proudly stocks up on its grungy presentation but never fully takes charge as a pulsating popcorn pleaser that dabbles convincingly in its barren, pseudo-ballistic state-of-mind.
The survivors vs. cannibals showdown feels watered down and arbitrary given the dank cinematography, illogical lapses in the storyline and wooden performances. A notable standout among the cast is Bell’s Mary as the mute ex-cannibal cutie with an itchy trigger finger. She brings some much needed spunky alienation and humor to a soggy, mundane script.
What a 24-hour difference The Day would have made if it bothered to overload on the essentials of a frothy boisterous escapist flick that flickers with kinetic urgency in its examination of cynical self-discovery. Instead, we are stuck with an arid humanization horror fantasy that falsely broods in uneventful introspection.
The Day (Anchor Bay Films/WWE Studios)
1 hr. 24 mins.
Starring: Shawn Ashmore, Ashley Bell, Dominic Monaghan, Shannyn Sossamon, Cory Hardrict, Michael Eklund
Directed by: Douglas Aarniokoski
MPAA Rating: R
Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror/Mystery & Suspense
Critic’s rating: ** stars (out of 4 stars)