Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Daylight Fades – review

Director: Brad Ellis

Released: 2010

Contains spoilers

This review is based on the advanced screener for Daylight Fades. The final film may have a slightly different edit than that version. This is, of course, one of the perks of running the blog, the fact that occasionally I get an advance viewing of new vampire movies – good or bad it is always a privilege.

In fact Daylight Fades impressed me with the professional quality of the film, despite a cast mostly made of unknown actors. The photography is excellent, the film character driven, but one thing I must point out to readers at the head of the review is the fact that this is not a horror. It is a romance, a tragic romance but a romance nonetheless. If it that fills you with dread then turn away now.

Seth and Raven
Still with me? Good. Then I can tell you that the film begins with a man, Seth (Allen Gardner), watching American football. His reaction and the notes he makes in a little book indicate that he has lost quite a bit of money on the match. He goes into a room where a woman sleeps and the way he puts his hand to her stomach indicates that she is pregnant. He leaves the apartment and heads to a bar. He is approached by a woman, Raven (Rachel Kimsey, Moonlight), who says that she thought he wouldn’t be back. He confesses he is tired. They go to a room and she asks him if he would trust her with his life, if he will she will make sure he never has to hurt again.

first meeting
Johnny (Matthew Stiller) is out with friends and notices a girl in a bar. For her part, Elizabeth (Rachel Miles) seems interested and her friend Renee (Jacqueline Steele) jokes that he will be her next victim. A man, Kyle (Adam Burns), approaches Elizabeth and it becomes clear that he is her ex and the breakup was not pleasant. Johnny sees the interaction and leaves. He is stood outside the bar when Elizabeth comes out and asks him for a smoke, when he says he doesn’t she gets one of her own out and explains that someone had to get the conversation started. The performance of these two is very good, brittle would be a good description at this point, her strength juxtaposed with his underpinning shyness.

Rachel Miles as Elizabeth
Her strength is only a façade however, a way to deflect the emotional intimacy she fears. We see her out with her mother, Sarah (Kim Justis), her step-father, Tim (Michael Gravois), and family friend Patrick (Dennis Phillippi). It becomes clear that she has dropped out of college and is in-between jobs – not wishing to go back to education. It is also clear that Tim believes her to be a sponger and that she resents her step-father and, in turn, her mother for staying with him. We then see her as she goes on a date with Johnny, who seems a little naive and we see him having his first ever fight, defending her honour against Kyle – he is rubbish at fighting. We also see their relationship blossom over the months. That changes when he tells her that he loves her.

Their relationship falters and when he tries to speak to her about it she tells him that she doesn’t love him. She goes as far as picking up a random guy in a bar. Eventually she tries to talk to a drunk Johnny when he is out with friend Jake (Drew Smith) but admits her infidelity and Johnny wants nothing more to do with her. Jake drives him home but, for some reason, stops the car in the middle of the road as they talk. They are hit by another vehicle. In the hospital they discover that Johnny has internal bleeding that is so bad, it is only a matter of time.

Patrick and Seth
Patrick gets a call and meets Seth outside the hodpital, he tells Patrick that he has been watching over her and suggests he can help but Patrick tells him to do nothing. Listening, however, to Elizabeth tell Johnny that she truly does love him spurs Seth into action. When she falls asleep Seth unhooks Johnny from the machines and when she awakens Johnny has vanished from the hospital.

Johnny blood spattered
Johnny wakes on a cellar floor, wracked with pain. Seth goes to him and offers his arm. Johnny rips at the flesh, tearing out a chunk and then drinking the blood. Seth has saved him by making him a vampire. Now, there are not the normal plethora of vampire rules in this, so I’ll list them now. Vampires are killed by sunlight. As, later, we see Seth’s arm in a ray (in what appeared to be a deliberately shot scene) one assumes it has to be direct and a large exposure. They can die by decapitation but holy items are not brought into the film at all.

Johnny's elation after eating a dog
We also discover that they can survive (survive being the appropriate word) on mammalian blood. This leads to a scene with Johnny taking his first feed from a dog and, unlike many such scenes, in this the dog is rather friendly, licking his face and yet Johnny cannot hide his glee after feeding on the canine. Raven is still in town and she is described by Seth as a hedonist – feeding from humans for pleasure. It does become clear that a diet-restricted vampire might well snap and attack a person.

Raven and Johnny
If you haven’t guessed I don’t think it a spoiler too far to say that Seth is Elizabeth’s father, it becomes rather clear quickly. The crux of the film is threefold. It is about the relationship between Elizabeth and Johnny, about her learning to trust. More so, however, it is about her relationship with her father – the issues from which have coloured her relationships and made her rather damaged. Finally it is about Johnny coming to terms with what he has become, especially after he loses control and makes his first kill – with Elizabeth a witness to his bloodlust. This leads him to Raven and her more traditional vampire lifestyle. I was impressed with the subtle viciousness of the vampire attacks, ripping at the flesh to feed even though they had small fangs that emerged at feeding and yet the attacks are used sparingly within the narrative.

Rachel Kimsey as Raven
I was impressed by all the lead performances. They made their characters believable – especially Matthew Stiller and Rachel Miles who carried a definite chemistry together. If I had a complaint, and it is just me really, I would have preferred it if the film had concentrated more on Raven – Rachel Kimsey infuses the character with the cold heart of the femme fatale – yet that is a foolish complaint as it clearly wasn’t the primary direction of the film.

beautiful landscape shot
I particularly want to mention the photography. This is a film on a budget and yet the camera work is professionally done and there was some beautiful photography within the film. Despite the fact that the narrative does flow well, the film perhaps was a little over long, due to the building of character and narrative – but how many times do we complain that it is missing? The main word of warning, as given at the start of the review, is that this is a tragic romance at heart. It is not a horror and that may be off-putting for some genre fans. However it was a fine piece of independent filmmaking. 6.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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