Director: Dan Rickard
Writers: Will Martin, Dan Rickard
Stars: Dan Rickard, Chris Wandell, Samantha Bolter
Darkest Day answers one of those burning questions that’s at the heart of so many horror films today: what could possibly be worse than a global apocalypse? Answer: surviving said global apocalypse but finding yourself trapped in a perpetually crap student party for the rest of your life. Indeed, this proves to be such a ghastly prospect for the motley group of characters herein that they make the suicidal choice to leave the safety of their two-up-two-down rather than put up with yet another drinking game or pot noodle meal. And, quite frankly, who can blame them.
So, the general territory here is 28 Days Later by sea, with the country devastated by an almost identical ‘rage virus’ but with the setting relocated from London to Brighton (presumably not via the unfailingly faulty Thameslink commuter line, though). Dan Rickard plays, well, Dan, a young chap who wakes up on the beach with absolutely no idea of who he is or how he came to be there, which sounds like a fairly standard start to a Sunday morning for many people in Brighton. After bumbling through the empty city he comes into contact with the aforementioned group of students who, rather reluctantly, agree to take him home with them. However, they are running out of food and, what’s more, the army seems to have a considerable interest in capturing poor Dan, either dead or alive.
Firstly, it has to be noted that there’s not a great deal of originality at play here. The story is cobbled together from a number of zombie films, with even the most original aspect – it’s not giving too much away to reveal that Dan has escaped from a medical program to cure the virus – being taken almost wholesale from 28 Weeks Later. However, if you’re willing to forgive this (and the often amateurish performances) there’s quite a lot to like, it’s relatively fast moving and the locations are well used. But what really stands out are the special effects: considering that this was made for almost nothing it looks amazingly good, with CGI used to create numerous helicopters and armies of the undead. Director Dan Rickard is better known as a digital effects technician – with his work in this capacity including The Dead (2010) and The Martian (2015) – and he uses his experience to give the work a visual gloss that is lacking from most other productions of a similar level. Rickard also plays the protagonist, wrote the film, edited it and acted as cinematographer; whatever flaws the film has one can only applaud him for his effort.