Monday, April 20, 2020

Red Days – review

Director: Brett William Mauser

Release date: 2019*

Contains spoiler

*release date taken from Amazon and copyright marking on film.

Red Days is Brett William Mauser’s remake of his own 2008 film After the Day. After the Day is very low budget, this has a bit more (though it is still a low budget film) and whilst a couple of actors are in both versions, they play different characters. The basic premise sounds much the same however.

Sergio Cantu as Van
So, the film starts with Van (Sergio Cantu) watching TV, the broadcast coming from the People’s Monarchy of California, and eating olives from the jar. There is a knock at the door and, by voice command, the TV changes to a door cam. A zombie is stood there. Van has mobility issues and so uses sticks to get to the door, opens it and throws olive juice on the zombie. Having had no effect, he picks up a shotgun and blows its head off. He marks olive juice on a list of substances (he’s seeing what the various effects might be) and, again through the TV, contacts the Government to arrange a pick up of the body.

mushroom cloud in the distance
Back in time, and there are tensions in the US but there is a barbeque at Van’s place. His friend Chuck (Charles A Riley) is cooking and is there with his wife Laura (Denise Villarreal), who is heavily pregnant. Also there is obnoxious neighbour Brad (Bradley Bates) who is with Van’s daughter Cecilia (Xiomara Bermudez). Cecilia speaks to her mother, Sharon (Kristen Barchus), in the kitchen before being sent to get Van from his den where he is working on a special project. After Van has a sojourn with his drug dealer (the drugs in question being a carton of cigarettes), Cecilia nips out to the store to get joints. Whilst she is gone there is an explosion, a mushroom cloud rises and the electricity is fried by an emp.

Xiomara Bermudez as cecilia
Van keeps Chuck and Laura at his, as they live a distance away, despite tensions between Chuck and the uncouth Brad. Sharon wants Van to go out and look for Cecilia – he refuses, suggesting that she’ll get back but worried both about fallout and, of course, he won’t get that far with his Zimmer frame. A helicopter eventually flies overhead, Homeland Security telling them to stay in their houses. Meanwhile we see Cecilia walking back at night, a guy stands up ahead of her, his face covered, and then suddenly she is jumped – though we don’t see by whom, it is just a flash.

Chuck and Brad
There is a knock at the door the next morning and they see a woman, radiation burns on her exposed skins, begging for food and water, saying she is so hungry. Van refuses and shuts the door, much to Sharon’s chagrin. He has told her not to touch the woman – due to her radiation exposure, and rationalises that they need whatever supplies themselves. However Laura goes out with a bottle of water – the woman jumps her and bites her. She survives, but over time she becomes sicker and sicker despite being taken to the bathroom and having contaminants washed off.

zombie newborn
She dies but then revives and attacks Chuck. Brad kills her with a sword to the head, and a fight results between the two men (Brad suggesting he saved Chuck and Chuck insisting he murdered Laura). Unseen her baby births itself, but soon they see it. The film uses stop motion to animate the baby that seems decayed (and is immediately ambulatory). There is a thought to kill it, which Chuck resists… until he realises it isn’t black (and therefore not his kid). Meanwhile Sharon had snuck out to look for Cecilia and has her arm bitten by what are clearly zombies (though currently articulate enough to say they are hungry).

So, zombies… As the film progresses, we discover there were seven nuclear explosions across the US but only in California did this result in zombies as z-spores were also released (their origin is not explained). Later we discover that alcohol actually gives a resistance to the airborne spores (though not to infection through bites). When power has been re-established they discover that they are now subjects of the California Monarch – the irony of a communist monarchy is not lost on the film, and commented on in dialogue. There is some thoughts that the monarchy was created by the gangs, who seized control. There is a remarkable upshift in technology, also, with cybernetic implants being offered to members of the Red Knight Division – the Government militia.

That, of course, doesn’t answer the question of vampires. They come in to it late in the film (though we had already unknowingly seen a moment of vampiric action) when Cecilia returns after a five year absence. We see her dancing down the street towards Chuck, now part of the militia, and his partner. She dances round them and then attacks the partner before beating Chuck. She then heads to her father’s house.

vampire speed
We discover through this that she is incredibly strong and fast. That she avoids sunlight and that she does need to be invited in (but not into garages). The existence of vampires is known and so, when he can’t see her on the door cam Van does not invite her in, rather contacts the Government to report an infestation. An enhanced knight (Jose Venegas Jr.) is sent to deal with her. However we discover very little else about the vampires and what they are up to.

For they are up to something but the film is really a first part, taking us to a story break. There was a sequel to After the Fall also, so I expect there is an aim to do the same for this. As well as the stop motion baby there is a combination of practical and digital effects (quite a bit of digital blood splatter for instance but, also, a slew of fake blood). The film relies on character to drive the narrative and the dialogue feels as though it wants to live in the same space as Kevin Smith, but isn’t overly up to it. The film is very ambitious, given the story vista it paints, but minimalizes much by concentrating on Van’s house. You can see this is budget but, despite ambitions being occasionally bigger than skill (returning to the dialogue, for instance; Brad isn’t funny, just uncouth) and bank roll (the vista it uses, the effects – though some are rather good), I couldn’t help but be somewhat charmed by it. That charm pushes this to 5 out of 10 – with the caveat that this is watchable and I will watch the sequel.

At the time of writing there was no IMDb page for the film.

On DVD @ Amazon US

On Demand @ Amazon UK

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