Review: Daylight Fades (15) / Directed by: Brad Ellis / Screenplay by: Allen C Gardner / Starring: Matthew Stiller, Rachel Miles, Allen C Gardner, Kim Justis, Dennis Phillippi / Release Date: Out Now
And so, with a heavy heart, the Starburst DVD reviewer slips the disc of Daylight Fades into his player and settles back in the full expectation of another wishy-washy tame-toothed American fable about a vampire falling in love and craving redemption for his hundreds of years of sins and blah blah yawn yawn. Ninety minutes later that same reviewer is pressing ’eject’, having enjoyed a rather good, thoughtful little movie characterised by a decent script, compelling performances and with a bit more bite than your run-of-the-mill straight-to-DVD vampire schlocker.
We are, however, in very familiar post-Twilight territory here. This isn’t really a film about vampires, it just uses vampirism as a handy contemporary metaphor to make some choice observations about relationships, addiction and the forced repression of otherwise unacceptable social behaviour. But don’t worry, we do see fangs. Tough, flighty Elizabeth (Miles) and kindly, nervy Jonathan (Miller) meet up in a bar and strike up a relationship. But Elizabeth has been bruised by years of abuse from her drunken stepfather and is terrified of committing to Jonathan. They’re ultimately driven apart by their differences but Jonathan is involved in a horrific car crash which leaves him with terrible injuries and only hours to live. Then he’s visited by the mysterious Seth (screenwriter Gardner) who saves Jonathan’s life the only way he can - by turning him into a vampire. Seth helps his new recruit keep his bloodlust under control and Elizabeth, who has realised how much Jonathan means to her, is happy to continue the relationship even though she knows what he’s become. But when Jonathan’s vicious vampiric nature comes to the fore Elizabeth can’t handle it and flees, driving Jonathan into the arms of a cold, calculating, murderous vampire known as Raven.
In some ways Daylight Fades sounds like twee ‘TV movie of the week’ stuff and it does occasionally play a bit like Twilight for people who’ve grown out of wearing tooth braces. But it’s actually a little bit gutsier, dealing in a more mature way with the destructive nature of relationships and how people who are meant to be together can so easily force each other apart. Elizabeth is no miserable Bella, mooning away in her bedroom window as the seasons rush by, pining for her vampire lover; Elizabeth takes it on the chin and learns to live with it until she witnesses Jonathan’s undead savagery and then she hotfoots it as quick as she can. Jonathan, for his part, has lost his anchor to humanity and quickly falls into the clutches of Raven (who, unfortunately, comes across as a bit of a clichéd sultry vampire seductress) even as his mentor Seth, who has his own personal agonies to deal with, tries to help him redeem himself.
Daylight Fades is very much a character piece rather than a vampire movie. The usual vampiric tropes are referenced here and there but this is much more concerned with how people cope with the tragedies of their own lives, past and present, and not the horror of actually becoming a predator destined to live through the centuries feeding on the blood of the living. Johnny-as-vampire is very much just a device the film uses to explore the power and frailties of relationships and how fragile are the bonds that bind us together.
Stylish, well-directed and written - and with a very low-key final sequence which is guaranteed to haunt you - with commanding performances from the unknown cast, Daylight Fades, like the forthcoming low budget British vampire flick Harsh Light of Day offers a decent and intriguing new take on the vampire love story and suggests that, in cinematic terms at least, there’s life in the undead yet.