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Days Of Darkness
cast: Travis Brorsen, Rochelle Pattison, John Lee Ames, and Chris Ivan Cevic

writer and director: Jake Kennedy

85 minutes (18) 2007
widescreen ratio 1.85:1
Revolver DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 4/10
reviewed by Mark West
This opens looking into deep space and follows a comet as it hurtles towards Earth, breaking up in the atmosphere and then showering through. The graphics for this were very good, surprisingly so in fact and made me think that this zombie horror ("humanity makes its last stand") might turn out to be something quite special.

We meet Steve (Travis Brorsen) and Mimi (Rochelle Pattison) on a camping trip "on an old military base." Steve breaks out the champagne and anticipates a bit of action but Mimi says that she wants to save herself for their wedding night. The next day, as they hike along, she complains of stomach cramps and they go back to their car, which is covered in a thick layer of sand. Worse, there's a blood-stained man shambling up the road towards them. Steve, armed with a penknife my three-year-old son would consider too small, goes out to see if he can be of assistance and is bitten for his trouble. Uh oh.. Thankfully, they are rescued from the sudden swarm of zombies (zombies? Who called them zombies?) by Simon (Chris Ivan Cevic) who leads them to a safe building, on top of the hill, where they meet a ragtag band of survivors.

This is where the film takes its first, almost certainly unintentional lurch towards comedy - one character asks another "what is this place," to be told (and I quote) "I think it's a decommissioned NORAD microwave station - but I could be wrong." Steve and Mimi are introduced to the other survivors, including Kylie who is determined to let everyone know that she was once a porn star and has shagged over 8,000 men but loves the idea of family and is fiercely protective (in a 'Mommy Dearest' kind of way) of her daughter. Someone talks about regret, Kylie lets rip with the soon-to-be-classic "when I found out I was pregnant, I fucked 70 guys that week but did I abort? Oh no." Strangely enough, this off-putting coarseness then stops and we barely hear from Kylie for the rest of the film.

Of the survivors, there's Chad (Tom Eplin) who seems to be the bully of the group and, from one of his anecdotes, might be gay but I don't think so. We have Slasher (Bryan Rassmussen), and DJ (Eric Stuart, who carries off the best joke in the film with a T-shirt he wears for the latter half), two car salesmen buddies who bring a real spark to the film and are sorely missed when they're not about; Lin (Sabrina Gennarino) who is a kind of poor man's, cut-price, too-cheap-for-Aldi version of Ripley; the aforementioned Kylie (Marian Tomas Griffin) and her daughter Jane (Ashley Elizabeth Pierce, playing a schoolgirl who looks to be in her mid-twenties). Rounding out the troupe are Trent (John Lee Ames), a religious nutter and his zombified brother Herbert (William Cannon), who is locked in the cellar.

The group bicker and argue, discover that Steve was bitten and lock him in the basement. He manages to avoid Herbert's grasp and then picks up the zombie's penis when it drops off and puts it in his pocket. Brought back up to the main group (he tells them he has medical training), he discovers that Mimi is pregnant (cue 'hilarious' arguments where Steve thinks he was cheated upon) and it turns out that he hasn't got any medical training, it's just that he's from "a long line of doctors and the line stops with him." So he pulls out Herbert's penis and they decide to bring the zombie up and check him out.

From here, it's not too much of leap to take in the invasion of the compound by the zombies (when our heroes are over-run, the zombies move at Romero-speed, in flashbacks they move at Zack Snyder-speed), the full autopsy of a captured zombie (by Steve, he of no medical training) and the realisation of what is actually going on (by Steve and down to the last detail - he's a very smart bloke). I'll just say alien parasites and we'll pretend zombies were never mentioned, nor gut-munching, nor the fact that being bitten by not-zombie-undead people carries absolutely no risk at all. As for what stops the zombies - well, you wouldn't believe me if I told you and Mimi's condition (as she herself points out earlier) contradicts the theory completely.

Unfortunately, the film's low budget really works against it, especially with the editing (in the initial zombie attack, insert shots runs too long and we see actors waiting their cues). The location is superb and well used, but it removes the viewer from everything else - we don't see what's happening in the world, we don't see city streets, we're as isolated as the characters (which is fine, as a device, but doesn't give us any sense of peril considering there are only a dozen zombies milling around outside the gates). The quality of the acting varies from good (Mimi) to hammy (Jane), but they're all let down by trite, clichéd dialogue (made more special by an end credit for 'additional dialogue'). The effects are equally varied - some of the prosthetic make-up is very clever but too often, the graphic effects, especially implements to the head, are of the 'swoop-camera-to-object-already-inserted' school and the first one always works, the rest don't. As for the aliens - ha! The first looks like something that fell out of a Kinder egg and the second, which attacks Simon, is shot under a flickering light and it took me a while to make out what I was looking at. Then another character shines a torch on it and reveals a very plastic looking glove puppet! Worse, during the autopsy, they'd obviously bled the effects budget dry and so with a static shot on Steve's face, he explains exactly what's going on and what the viewer can't see - come on, people, this isn't radio!

This doesn't know what it wants to be - a zombie horror, an alien invasion sci-fi or a talky, apocalyptic art house movie and so fails to hit all three. The real shame is that you get the sense that with a bit more attention to detail and a little more time spent on the project, it could have been so much better.
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