Dan wakes up on Brighton beach with no memory of the past few days. He finds his hometown in ruins, and the few remaining survivors are sheltering from the terror of those and who have been affected by a zombie-like virus. As Dan joins the survivors, he is treated with suspicion, and he soon discovers that the army are hunting for him, for reasons he doesn't yet recall. Dan and the others are forced into a dangerous journey across the city, facing the dual threat of attack by the military and the infected, as Dan's crucial role in the evolution of the virus is revealed.
Borrowing themes from other sources has never been a problem for me; ‘Darkest Day’ is clearly influenced by British 2002 zombie classic ’28 Days Later’.
The first thing that struck me about this, after its fast-paced, gruesome opening, is the very flat acting on display from most of the cast. Although one gets used to the stilted delivery, it is still a stumbling block – and sadly, two of the main players Dan (Dan Rickard) and Sam (Chris Wandell) are the worst offenders. Most of the other characters are reduced to merely a few words here and there, which may or may not be a good thing. The exception is Samantha Bolter’s Kate, who is excellent, believable and far more ‘there’ than her somewhat two-dimensional colleagues.
When researching this film online, however, many of the cast are also active behind the scenes. Richard Wilkinson (James) also composed the music, Simon Drake (Will) is a second unit director and camera operator. Most prolific is Dan Rickard, who co-wrote and directed, provided digital effects and editing (as well as providing some special effects for ‘The Dead (2010)’ and ‘The Dead 2: India (2013)’).
The story features Dan, who wakes up on Brighton beach, with no memory how he got there. He soon realises the world is awash with ‘the infected’ (the word ‘zombie’ is only used in the credits at the end), and becomes reluctantly taken in by a group of young people lead by physically intimidating Sam (nick-named ‘Arnie’ at one point). These people spend their days getting endlessly drunk, going on occasional shopping sprees, and only leaving their seaside-town home once the military discover their whereabouts and take more than a passing interest. A bond almost forms between rivals Sam and Dan as the latter, who realises the military are specifically looking for him (he was infected, but appears to have been cured), volunteers to lead the soldiers away from the group, resulting in a low-key but very effective ending.
Occasionally the violently shaking camera becomes a little heady, but visually, the film looks terrifically bleak, making great use of the seafront location and economically relaying how run-down the world has become, with sparing use of overturned cars, smashed windows and forlorn streets. The Infected, although little more than bloodied performers, are persuasive in their intent; shrieking and moving at speed (and there are LOADS of them) and create the most tense scenes.
Rumoured to be budgeted at £1,000, my initial misgivings about ‘Darkest Day’ soon became overcome with admiration that the project is as good as it is.