Title: The Day
Director: Douglas Aarniokoski
Starring: Dominic Monaghan, Ashley Bell, Shawn Ashmore, Cory Hardrict, Shannyn Sossamon, Michael Eklund
A casserole of post-apocalyptic siege/road movie clichés and tropes, “The Day” tells the story of a band of armed, sick and downtrodden survivors looking for refuge and trying to stay alive. Take Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road” and cross-pollinate it with a couple dozen other more aggressively low-grade genre entries and the result is this very self-serious yet unoriginal offering, which doesn’t have anywhere near the imagination to match the mode of its telling.
Unfolding over the course of about 24 hours, “The Day” centers on a makeshift family of grungy, weary drifters (Dominic Monaghan, Shawn Ashmore, Shannyn Sossamon and Cory Hardrict) living off what they can in an irradiated wasteland. The newest member of their group is the sullen, uncommunicative Mary (Ashley Bell). With ammunition and other resources dwindling, the group takes shelter in a seemingly abandoned farmhouse, where they discover food. Unfortunately, they also set off a tripwire that summons a group of ruthless predators laying in wait. A few secrets come out, and after the requisite intense bickering, instead of fleeing, the group decides to make a stand.
Working with director of photography Boris Mojsovski, director Douglas Aarniokoski marshals an impressive display of low-budget visual palette wizardry; the color-drained, hand-held, almost entirely black-and-white cinematography (flashbacks occur in color) give “The Day” an undeniable sense of differentiation from many of its genre brethren. But the movie is also constructed in such a way that strives to lionize and fête its grittiness. A lot of shot selection is of the look-at-me! variety.
Bursts of violence, meant to be shocking, stud Luke Passmore’s script, which is more wan and indeterminate than mysterious and ambiguous. Since the characterizations are so thin and dialogue so lame, these bursts of action come across as desperate and grabby pleas for attention rather than unnerving markers of a civilization gone mad. And as “The Day” unfolds, nothing much of deeper interest or shading about its world comes into focus, making its 85-minute running time feel much longer than it is.
Then there are the performances. Given so little to work with, much of the cast falls back on bad habits and overacting (Monaghan is the notable exception). Bell (“The Last Exorcism”) is especially awful — all bug-eyed, “Blue Steel” intensity and pantomimed rage. Spending a “Day” with her is enough to make one want to end things.
Written by: Brent Simon