A scene from The DayWhen it comes to post-apocalyptic movies, we’ve pretty much seen it all: vampires, zombies, disease, nuclear holocaust. Whatever the reason, the world becomes a bleak, dangerous place void of law or peace. In The Day, you get to pick your poison because the filmmakers don’t want to waste you’re valuable time duplicating what you’ve already seen; instead, they jump right into the middle of the story and never look back.

A group of five survivors (Shawn Ashmore, Dominic Monaghan, Ashley Bell, Shannyn Sossamon and Cory Hardrict) travel together, seeking a place to fortify while guarding against regular attacks by a murderous force. However, one of them is gravely ill and they are forced to seek shelter in an abandoned farmhouse in the middle of nowhere. But the enemy knows where they are and for some of them, it will become a final resting place.

Not only does the narrative not reveal the source of the desolation, it leaves the viewer to piece together key parts of the story, including who these people are to each other and what the constant threat is to their existence. It creates a more engaging experience, requiring thought and attention. It was nice to be treated as an intelligent viewer versus the typical hand-holding associated with this genre. By listening to the characters’ conversations, we learn they’ve significantly decreased in numbers recently, two of them are outsiders and the world changed a decade ago – but these bits of information are sprinkled throughout the narrative rather than shared via an obvious expositional speech in the beginning.

The film is as visually stark as its environment, displaying drained colors and muted tones. There is a gradual build up to the violence, which is portrayed effectively; and even though it has a high body count, it’s not exceptionally gory. Most of the story unfolds in a single location, though some minor incidents occur in the woods and surrounding areas. The opening scene takes place sometime before the main events, but it effectively sets up a devastating worldview, as well as the tone for the rest of the film.

Despite the mystique I’m trying to maintain here, it’s impossible for a movie in this genre to be entirely unpredictable. So yes, you’ll probably figure out what they’re afraid of early on and who isn’t going to make it through to the credits, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a few surprises in store as well. And that’s surely an asset in a saturated genre.

Bell is excellent as the strong but silent woman. Where she learned how to handle a blade the way she does is a temporary mystery, but it’s amazing to watch her work. Ashmore is incredibly solemn, until he reveals a dark side that is both surprising and unsettling. Monaghan appears to be a natural leader, taking control of situations and making the tough decisions. Finally, Hardrict plays a convincing sick person, while Sossamon is the one element that doesn’t entirely mesh as it feels like she had some problems connecting with her character.

The very end retains the intensity of earlier and delivers an applause-inducing conclusion. It’s not too long and doesn’t try to introduce any complicated concepts – it’s more or less a straight up survival picture. The only thing I found myself wanting to shout at the screen was, “Stop wasting ammo!”


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