What is it about the end of the world that brings out the cannibals? The Day seems set in the same exact universe as Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, with five survivors traveling on foot through a gray, dreary, post-apocalyptic America in search of food and shelter. It’s not a carbon copy of that book (or its cinematic adaptation), but director Douglas Aarniokoski is more than willing to eagerly set up camp in that world. Does The Day bring anything of its own to the table?
Not quite, but it’s brutal and grim enough to satisfy most fans of this type of rain-soaked sci-fi gloom. The Day is basically a siege movie, wherein our tiny band of survivors find themselves trapped in an abandoned house, outnumbered by a ruthless cannibal gang. No one wants to be eaten (would you?), so they take what weapons they have, board up the windows, and fight for their lives.
If cannibals weren’t enough, the bond between the group is at the breaking point. Each survivor has been pushed to their own personal limits for violence, and their darkest natures have been revealed to each other in the process. How this plays out provides The Day with its most interesting dynamic, particularly the sticky relationship between the characters played by Shawn Ashmore, Shannyn Sossamon, and Ashley Bell. The leader of the troupe is Dominic Monaghan, who brings a welcome dash of optimism to a seriously downbeat tale.
Ashley Bell, who impressed in The Last Exorcism, continues to pick tough, interesting genre roles. Her character, Mary, is a psychologically scarred hard-ass with pitch black eyes that are haunted by experiences no one should ever have to suffer. Those eyes are the best special effect in the whole film, and they’re all Bell. The Day is obviously a B-picture, but she’s bringing her A-game. It’s appreciated.
A low budget might force a filmmaker (like Aarniokoski) to rely too much on computer-generated blood effects, but it doesn’t force a film to be derivative. The Day’s cannibalization of other, better films is its downfall; there’s just not enough unique material here to nourish. If you can overlook that, you’ll find a standard bleak post-apoc action film with some thought-provoking character beats. If you can’t, then The Day is just another rough, rainy trudge through a really crappy vision of one possible future.