“THE DAY,” is a surprisingly good horror movie that makes the most of its bleak environment. Stripped down to the essentials, this post-Apoc B-movie-style film presents us with a group of ragtag survivors who are on the run. It’s only later that we find out what it is that they’re running from. The group is made up of just enough members to give us a Scooby gang. There are two women and three men. At first, you really can’t tell them much apart since none of the actors stand out. Two of the actors may as well be twins: two mellow young guys with beards. It’s not until we get some sense of conflict that one actor emerges from the pack. It’s a scene early on in the movie, after the group has found the usual horror movie abandoned farmhouse to camp out in.
The two women have been sent out to forage. While they’re out in the woods, one woman turns on the other. She complains to her companion that she had better learn to socialize, that she had better start speaking up, say anything, since they are all family now. The woman just stares back. And that is our rising star, Ashley Bell, who made her mark as the possessed Nell Sweetzer in “The Last Exorcism.” In an impressive cast of actors, it’s Ashley Bell by a mile. It’s on her shoulders that this whole movie pivots. Bell knows how to brood and to build up tension. Before you know it, when she finally speaks, you are hanging on her every word. That, my friends, is not what usually happens in something that’s just a B-movie.
Another point of distinction: Luke Passmore’s script. There are plenty of clever twists in this film to keep any horror and film buff content. It is also noteworthy in how we are lulled into believing in these characters. The dialogue is earthy and what you’d expect from a group of young people, especially a group in a crisis. Director Doug Aarniokoski has created a musky and creepy world with little, if no hope, for survival with the light only coming from what the characters may still do to make sense out of it all. Because, remember, this group was running away from something and that something is determined to find them.
Shot in black and white, with muted colors (along with some full color flashbacks), “The Day” has the look and feel of an old scary movie as well as the intelligence to know how to take things further. It does push limits. There are some scenes where the violence is raised to a fever pitch. In lesser hands, that could easily have become too much but this movie strikes a good balance. If you stick with it, brave through the blood and gore, you’ll see just what a gem it really is.
“The Day” enjoyed a successful world premiere at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival and was released in theaters earlier this year.
“The Day,” from WWE Studios and Anchor Bay Films, is now available on Blu-ray and DVD.