DVD REVIEW: DARKEST DAY / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: DAN RICKARD / SCREENPLAY: VARIOUS / STARRING: DAN RICKARD, CHRIS WANDELL, SAMANTHA BOLTER / RELEASE DATE: MAY 25TH
A zero-budget film that started life as a student project, with a cast of first-time amateurs and that was recorded over a period of four years (with another three for post-production) was never going to be the next Citizen Kane. That Darkest Day, obviously heavily inspired by 28 Days Later, is as good a match as it is for the Danny Boyle classic is, frankly, astonishing.
Dan (director Rickard, playing the lead himself for reasons the documentary makes plain) wakes up on Brighton beach with no memory of the last few days, only to find the town devastated and empty. He soon hooks up with a small group of twenty-somethings who have survived the apocalypse, leading a largely hedonistic life away from the rural refugee camps, and all the while avoiding the infected that stalk the deserted streets.
What follows is not only as entertaining as a film with many times the resources, but also intelligent enough not to be predictable. That it takes place largely in daylight is a bonus, making the abandoned Brighton a genuinely eerie place. Some of the acting might not be brilliant, but by the end of the film almost everyone has picked their game up considerably.
What sets Darkest Day apart isn’t just what Rickard and crew have managed with a minuscule budget (you’d swear the raw footage had been given a Hollywood makeover prior to release), nor is it the superb cinematography and sharp editing (there is never a point at which this looks like it had been made by anyone other than seasoned, professional filmmakers), or the professional score and sound design (it sounds as good as it looks). What sets Darkest Day apart is the maturity of the film-making. Student filmmakers can so easily fall into the habit of gratuity for the sake of gratuity, and while some of the earlier sequences (which tend to resemble a zombie Made in Chelsea) threaten to push the film a little too hard in this direction, as soon as the plot kicks back in everyone pulls together to create something for more thoughtful, better-paced and well-characterised than Darkest Day had any right to be, right up to the poignant and elliptical ending.
It won’t win any awards for originality – as alluded to earlier, it’s precious little more than a remake of 28 Days Later, although the twist that gives the premise its momentum is both unexpected and yet entirely consistent with the rest of the plot. And Darkest Day isn’t worth seeing because Rickard and his friends have managed minor miracles with what little funds they had. It’s worth seeing in its own right, and we can’t recommend it any more highly than that.
Special Features: Making of (an absolutely essential watch!) / Two trailers
Additionally, for details of a May 11th cinema screening of the film in London, click here.