Daylight’s End (Movie Review)

Making its world premiere at the 2016 Dallas International Film Festival, Daylight’s End is an Independent Horror/Sci-Fi/Action film written by Chad Law (The Hit List 2011, 6 Bullets 2012) and directed by William Kaufman (Sinners and Saints 2010, The Hit List 2011). Available now via VOD, it will hit DVD on November 1, 2016 via Lionsgate and features a cast led by Johnny Strong (The Fast and the Furious 2001, Black Hawk Down 2001) and Horror/Sci-Fi legend Lance Henriksen (Aliens 1986, Pumpkinhead 1988). But is this enough to make the film worth sitting through its nearly two hour running time?

Still from Daylight's End
Still from Daylight’s End

The film opens with a lone driver, Rourke (Strong), in a fortified American muscle car stopping to investigate an abandoned gas station. Wearing dark sunglasses and a bandanna across his mouth like an old-time bank robber, he is heavily armed and is covered in padded leathers. While searching the building, he comes across someone, or something, hiding in an old meat freezer. Using a chain, he drags the freezer out into the sun and shoots it open. A woman tumbles out screaming and writhing in pain as the sunlight bakes her the way it would a vampire. The scene tells the audience a lot about the world they are about to explore and the opening credits fill in the rest.

The credits appear over a jumpy video montage of microscopic blood footage interspersed with road maps starting in the northeastern United States and ending in the southwest, stock riot footage movie viewers seen before in other movies, and shots of the lone driver on abandoned roads. Viewers are already used to this type of film and know what to expect. From this point forward, there are no surprises anyone has not seen before in countless other movies.

Several times throughout the film, Rourke has flashback memories of lying in bed next to a pregnant woman. From the first of these, it is clear where the story is going. He arrives in a seemingly empty town and begins hunting the darkened buildings for the infected. He finds, and dispatches, a few then takes a break on the roof of a building. Shirtless, for no reason other than to show off his buff and tattooed chest, he hears a car in the street and watches as a police car stops to investigate a woman. Annabelle (Farah White: Miss Congeniality 2000, Hate Crime 2005) is sitting in an intersection clutching what appears to be a baby. Emerging from the car are three men and a woman – Samantha Sheridan (Chelsea Edmundson: The Morning After 2015, Isolation 2015). They are ambushed by a large group of men all brandishing automatic weapons. Heavily outnumbered, they are quickly taken out and Samantha, known as Sam, is captured.

When the attackers attempt to rape Sam, Rourke comes to her rescue, leaving the group’s leader wounded in the street begging for them to not leave him until nightfall. This is the first of several scenes, which although are action-packed are wastes of ammunition, have no logical reason behind them. With the promise of fuel and supplies, Rourke agrees to take Sam and Annabelle back to the police station Sam’s group uses as a safe haven. Arriving just as night falls, Sam’s friends go out to help them and a one-sided shootout takes place. Not unexpectedly, no matter how many infected are killed, there does not seem to be any decrease in the number of the horde attacking them.

Still from Daylight's End
Still from Daylight’s End

Just before the station’s garage door closes, Rourke sees, and seems to recognize, one of the infected dressed in robes as it hangs back just out of range for a well-aimed bullet. Rourke calls him, The Alpha, (Krzysztof Soszynski: Here Comes The Boom 2012, Tapped Out 2014). Once inside, Rourke learns that Sam’s scouting party were searching for an airplane in order to fly their group to a survivalist colony in Baja. The group’s leader, Frank Hill (Hendriksen), does not trust Rourke, takes his weapons, and locks him in a cell.

As expected, the infected breach the building’s defenses, Rourke picks the jail-cell’s lock, escapes, and saves the day. During the battle, as more ammo is expended, one of Hill’s group is bitten. In an emotional scene, he is shot by one of his own before he can change. In the morning, they learn the infected have blocked their garage exit. Hill is forced to make a decision; clear the blockade or find more vehicles so they can leave while there is still daylight.

Rourke tells them that The Alpha is the reason the infected suddenly have a collective mind capable of planning ahead to stop the humans from leaving. Rourke asks Hill for explosives so that he can hunt down The Alpha and give the group more time to escape. Hill refuses, but some of his men, including his own son, agree to help Rourke, with dire consequences. The hotel raid is a snapshot of what is fundamentally wrong with this film. Just as many of the scenes and the character’s decisions, Rourke’s attempt to kill The Alpha in the abandoned hotel is ultimately pointless. The raid does nothing other than get several of the human survivors killed while dispensing several hundred rounds of ammunition. Rourke and his team are able to take out dozens of the monsters, but it does not accomplish anything.

While Rourke attempts to take out The Alpha, Hill has others looking for more vehicles; at dusk, one of them returns with a school bus. Faced with another long night, the survivors decide to use themselves as bait in order to give the nameless women and children of their group time to get to the bus. Somehow, this takes all night, and every character capable of fighting is killed in the process. In the climactic final fight, Rourke faces off in a hand-to-hand battle with The Alpha. The ending of which is a poor example of how to superimpose a smoke effect onto a smoldering corpse. The producers may have been better served using some of their ammo budget on better makeup and special effects.

Still from Daylight's End
Still from Daylight’s End

The characters are stereotypes of those viewers have seen numerous times: a father who wishes his surviving son had died instead of another, families who lose their fathers fighting the infected, a loner secretly in love with the main female character, a redneck couple, and of course, Rourke himself is the biggest cliché. An unbeatable warrior haunted by the death of his woman and unborn child, he searches out the infected to get revenge.

In addition, it has many plot holes. For example, why did the men attack the scouting party earlier in the film? Who is the mysterious Annabelle? Is there really a survivalist oasis in Baja? What actually happened to Rourke’s family to make him devote his life to exterminating the infected? Is this Alpha the same one he has seen as he has traveled across the country, or does he simply remind Rourke of the one who took his family?

If the saying imitation is the sincerest form of flatteryis true, Daylight’s End writer, Chad Law, and director, William Kaufman, must be huge fans of 1979’s Mad Max, 1973’s The Crazies, and 2007’s I Am Legend. That said, this film’s story and look mimic those classics to the point of making it a cliché of the genre. If devotees of this genre are looking to pass some time, they may want to check out Daylight’s End or simply pass it up to find one of the three movies aforementioned as inspiration. It will be a much better way to spend a night once reaching daylight’s end. CrypticRock gives Daylight’s End 2 out 5 stars.

Lionsgate
Lionsgate

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2 Comments

  • Great movie!! I think its a breath of fresh air as far as this genre is concerned!! I hope there is an awesome sequel!!
    Anyone what type of shades Johnny wore in this movie??

    LLAP

  • “Shirtless, for no reason other than to show off his buff and tattooed chest…”

    It is Texas, friend. It shows that the writer likely has not been out of where he is writing from in quite some time. Maybe instead of living vicariously through movies, you should travel.

    “When the attackers attempt to rape Sam, Rourke comes to her rescue, leaving the group’s leader wounded in the street begging for them to not leave him until nightfall. This is the first of several scenes, which although are action-packed are wastes of ammunition, have no logical reason behind them.”

    It is the degradation of human beings. It is to show what life would be like without order. Logically, humans will devolve to their natural base instincts as we are animals after all. Some will be for helping others and maintaining some sort of civilization. Others, not so much. They will go back to the law of conquest, which is to the victors go the spoils. Which was why they attacked that group. I understand that the writer here might think we will all sing kumbaya and that the “Vampire/Zombies” are just misunderstood and trying to feed their families. However, if you would remove your head from your fourth point of contact and realize that not all human beings are good people. Many are but there is a subset that would ambush people like you to take what you have. To include loved ones for their own perverse acts.

    It was a good movie. Not amazing, but good. It showed the de-evolution of man as well as what man will do on their base level of instincts. It also shows what can and will happen if one seeks out vengeance.

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