Written and directed by Matt Osterman, 400 Days is a sub-Twilight Zone inflected film that centres on four astronauts that are sent on a simulated test-program to test the psychological effects of deep space travel. Locked away in an underground test bunker for 400 days, the crew's mental state begins to deteriorate, when they all start to lose communication with the outside world. Forced to exit the ship, they discover that this mission may not have been a simulation after all… or could it still be one?
Played out almost entirely as a psychological thriller with horror elements, this film sets out to examine and define the strains and confusions of a person’s psychology during extraordinary circumstances, delving deep into the madness within a close-quartered environment. So in that sense, the film has an intriguing concept, however, that concept doesn’t get explored to its full potential and that’s a real problem. For the first half of the film, we do get to see some of those ideas come out, when showing the isolation and psychology of these four characters trapped in this claustrophobic setting. However, there’s this sudden shift in the second when it all starts to turn into a survival thriller, becoming a semi-The Hills Have Eyes sequel.
It’s a bizarre shift in style, atmosphere and tone, and is off-kilter to what has gone before in the film, which is weird considering that it starts off wanting to be this unnerving study of encroaching, corrupting madness, only for it to suddenly transform into a feral “survival of the fittest” slasher movie. Plus, the last 10 minutes, in which the slasher stuff comes into effect, are just a horrendous mess, and it all finishes on a ball-buster of an open ending, which the film never earned at all.
Also, strained dialogue and clichéd characters plague the film greatly, even though there are some unique touches to be found (particularly the opening montage of space-related archival footage). Whilst not exactly cast against type, most of the cast give decently solid performances, particularly from the two Legends of Tomorrow stars Brandon Routh and Caity Lotz. However, despite impressing greatly in TV’s The Flash (another DC connection), Tom Cavanagh is simply miscast as the shifty bad guy that appears in the film’s second half. His twitchy, manic performance is so obvious, it’s almost as if you could see right through his acting, as if he was just phoning it in. Even with a limited budget, the film does look amazing, and that’s thanks to the combination of Bo Hakala’s cinematography and Traci Hays' impressive set design.
In the end, 400 Days is a good and compelling idea that has been disappointingly realised with a preposterous second half, a half-assed cliff-hanger ending that isn’t warranted and by the time it’s all over, you feel as though it has all taken place in real time. There are some nice touches here and there, and the actors aren’t 100% terrible, but it ultimately disappointments.
400 DAYS / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: MATT OSTERMAN / STARRING: BRANDON ROUTH, CAITY LOTZ, BEN FELDMAN, TOM CAVANAGH, DANE COOK / RELEASE DATE: AUGUST 19TH