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The Day (2011), when big risks, low budgets and strong female leads produce greatness!

September 4, 2013

MY CALL:  Believably tough women (and men) in a desperate situation fight for their lives…and I bought it!  It’s a familiar premise presented in a gritty different way that works surprisingly well with actors capable of matching the grave tone.  IF YOU LIKED THIS WATCHThe Shrine (2010) and The Last Exorcism (2010), both with extremely different premises but offer similarly unexpected surprises from low budgets.  I hope the best for these risk-taking filmmakers.

A group of survivors in a post-apocalyptic world have banded together, pooled their resources, and are trying to survive.  We know there were originally twelve of them and now they are down to five.  But what caused the apocalypse and wiped out humanity, killed their seven friends, and whatever it is they’re protecting themselves from remains a mystery.

Our survivors include Adam (Shawn Ashmore; the X-Men trilogy, The Following, Mother’s Day, The Ruins), Rick (Dominic Monaghan; Heroes, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Lost), Shannon (Shannyn Sossamon; One Missed Call, Catacombs, The Order), Mary (Ashley Bell; The Last Exorcism, The Last Exorcism Part 2) and Henson (Cory Hardrict; Warm Bodies, Return of the Living Dead: Rave to the Grave & Necropolis).  As you can see, all of these actors have a fair bit of experience when it comes to supernatural and horror themes.

Whereas Mary comes off as the tough-as-nails survivalist right away, Shannon is much more compassionate, embracing her sensitive needs for her “family” above her own survival.  But when things turn grave, both of these women grow a thick, gritty skin.  They’re both tough and I found their actions and strength credible–which isn’t common in action or horror movies.  Score one for good casting, direction, writing and solid acting for these two actresses (Ashley Bell and Shannyn Sossamon)!  I hope to see these actresses getting more serious work in the near future!  Of the two, Ashley Bell was most shocking–a breakthrough performance really–and her character had the backstory and motivation to justify her outstanding actions (and the acting behind them).  In my eyes, she joins the ranks of Scream Queen Sharni Vinson for her work in You’re Next (2013).

Ashley Bell

With this strong heroine-emergent threat comes a double-crossing twist.  As we identify their enemies, more enemies emerge from within.  I’m intentionally not revealing what their enemies are because I didn’t know when I watched this (and I’m grateful I didn’t know).  So I’d advise you not to read other reviews for fear of such revelations.

I must say that I am impressed with the action quality in this movie, a movie which I never even heard of until Amazon recommended it.  Really impressed.  There isn’t a ton of action, but what you get is heavy-hitting, brutal and not over-sensationalized with Hollywood choreography.  Everyone isn’t a ninja or ex-special ops agent.  Their tactics were smart, simple and appropriate to the situation and resources at hand.  They’re fighting to survive and I believed they were fighting to survive.   Only in a few brief moments did  I question anyone’s combat prowess as a bit too much–but let’s just let them have their moments, right?  I’m also happy to forgive some CGI use for blood spurts during the phenomenal action sequence at the finale.

The acting wasn’t amazing across the board.  But it was often credible, much more credible than you’d expect given the budget.  In its non-mainstream style and breakthrough overall quality (again, minding the low budget) this movie struck me much as did The Shrine (2010), which was also not like much else I had seen and also featured an Ashmore twin (Aaron, in this case).  The black and white medium chosen by the director (who has 20 years of experience as a second unit or assistant director) struck me as risky, but it worked wonders for the pilot of The Walking Dead and it worked well here.  Speaking of which, The Walking Dead season 4 writer Luke Passmore wrote this.

These filmmakers took some risks and it paid off in spades!  Watch this and appreciate how no one else tries to do this and, when and if they do, they over-sensationalize and consequently fail.

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