Friday, September 30, 2016

Daylight’s End – review

Director: William Kaufman

Release date: 2016

Contains spoilers

This is most definitely a zompire movie. What seems a by the numbers zombie apocalypse film (a genre that part owes its existence to the vampire genre and, specifically, I am Legend) strays into our territory with the idea that the infected (I suspect infected rather than living dead though the film is not explicit) blister and die in sunlight and have an alpha who shows intelligence and decision making.

It’s also a film that has big gaping holes at the centre of its story logic. These struck me after the fact as during the watch it is a by the numbers shoot the running infected and fight to survive.

Mad Max style
So it starts with a car, and in Mad Max style it has metal grating rather than glass – though what protection it would offer as it seems ill fixed and flimsy is questionable. A masked figure, Rourke (Johnny Strong), gets out the car and noses around a gas station. He notices a chest freezer and locks the loose lid down and something inside is not happy. He drags it out by a chain on his car and shoots the lid lock. A girl (Brittany Ingram) tumbles out and cries in agony under the sun before expiring. Rourke drives off – it appears he never bothered checking for gas.

a zompire in the sun
He gets into a town and starts wandering aimlessly around. He goes through a diner and into a building. There are bodies around and eventually some get up, go for him and he shoots them. Apparently sunlight has to be direct and these can be killed by being shot (head shots are not necessary). It is for this reason I wondered whether they were simply infected (though then one has to wonder what they are feeding on most of the time).

it's a trap
A group of cops, with a woman called Sam (Chelsea Edmundson, Bloodsucka Jones), stop their car in the road – Rourke spots them from a rooftop and goes down. There is a woman, Annabel (Farah White, Aaron’s Blood) sat in the road holding a bundle (that looks like a baby but turns out to be a doll). One of the cops, Mike (Craig Cole), approaches her but is shot. She is being used as a lure by marauders who then attack, kill the cops and are about to rape Sam when Rourke comes to the rescue and kills the baddies (bar one left bleeding in the road). Sam gathers the shell-shocked Annabel and persuades Rourke to drive them to their base in Dallas.

a chase of infected
Night is falling as they arrive and they are chased by infected. The base – a police station – send out men to give covering fire and they make it back safely. In the place (a shelter for many survivors, including a lot of kids) he meets their leader (and pre-apocalypse police chief) Frank Hill (Lance Henriksen, Near Dark, Monster Brawl, Vampires: Out for Blood & Blood Shot). Frank doesn’t trust the newcomer and they take his weapons and tell him he’ll be in a cell for the night. In the morning they’ll give him ammo and fuel and he can be on his way. They will also be leaving as Sam has found a plane that can take them all to safety (that being the middle of a dessert). During all this, somewhere, it comes to light that we are three years into the apocalypse.

the alpha
However the alpha creature (Krzysztof Soszynski) who turned up a couple of weeks ago has been sending attack squads at them relentlessly, and also seemed to recognise Rourke as he made it to the shelter. During the night the creatures cut the CCTV and some get in through vents (something they haven’t done in three years). Rourke helps fight them off (having got out of his cell by picking the lock). In the morning they discover that the creatures have blocked the garage doors with vehicles during the night so Rourke, against Frank’s wishes, goes to attack them in their nest (a hotel), and kill the alpha. A group of survivors go with him…

dream of Rourke's wife
The big story fail for me was in the Rourke/alpha relationship. Rourke claims to have killed an alpha before but we also discover this one turned his wife. Rourke killed her and, presumably, has been tracking the creature in his car, who, in turn, has apparently outpaced him (they started in New York). The alpha seems impervious to bullets (but we discover he is wearing bulletproof armour, presumably from his pre-turn army life) and is clearly giving orders by gesture to the other infected. Whether they had a previous alpha is not explored but this one seems to understand CCTV and so we are left with a question over why they didn’t have one for three years or why the previous one never thought of cutting video feeds and using air vents for entrance to the shelter. There also seemed to be an endless supply of infected (at least until the alpha is disposed of) despite the nest in the hotel seeming to have a limited number.

A bite turns and – it is intimated – getting infected blood in the mouth will also do the trick. Turning is pretty darn rapid but not so rapid that it can’t first be used for dramatic effect! The eyes go red/bloodshot around the iris. They do seem to attack to turn (so bite once and then leave the victim to turn and seek out another non-infected) as well as attack to feed. Whether it is blood or flesh they crave is not really explored. For a bunch of creatures living on cellar floors and revelling in blood, their clothing doesn’t seem as bad as one would imagine after three years. They blister in sunlight but die within less than a minute. However we see them running down a street during the day and in light flooded corridors so one imagines it is direct sunlight that’s an issue. The Z word is used at least once, the V word not.

Lance Henriksen as Frank
As I say, by the numbers but the story didn’t hang and elements like the flimsy car defences, what the infected have eaten for three years, why the alpha was different and what caused the plague in the first place are not answered. The acting was limited, though Henriksen was his usual professional self and helps add a touch of class to proceedings. Johnny Strong was probably let down by the script as he himself seemed a stoic lead action hero, as called for, and my questions where more in story motivation than acting chops. Strong provided soundtrack elements also. 4 out of 10 (because 3.5 seemed harsh).

The imdb page is here.

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