Daylight’s End is a 2016 American science fiction action horror feature film directed by William Kaufman from a screenplay by Chad Law. It stars Johnny Strong, Lance Henriksen, Louis Mandylor, and Hakeem Kae-Kazim.
Years after a mysterious plague has devastated the planet and turned most of humanity into blood-hungry creatures, a rogue drifter (Johnny Strong) on a vengeful hunt stumbles across a band of survivors lead by a grizzled old police chief (Lance Henriksen) in an abandoned police station and reluctantly agrees to help them defend themselves and escape to the sanctuary they so desperately need…
Daylight’s End is a post-apocalyptic film set sometime in the not too distant future, probably sometime after the day after tomorrow, but before the end of days, whenever that is. Johnny Strong (yes – Johnny Strong) stars as Thomas Rourke, the burned-out and excruciatingly dead-pan male lead; the always engaging Lance Henriksen stars as the blandly named Frank Hill, leader of a group of desperate survivors; and Chelsea Edmundson appears as the gratuitous, yet requisite, super-competent, super-supple female lead with the requisite male name, Sam Sheridan.
In the respectable tradition of sci-fi action films morphing as horror films in order to grab as wide an audience as possible (Alien, The Thing and Event Horizon, to name a few), Daylight’s End succeeds admirably, although on lesser ground. After all these years as money-printing machines in Hollywood, the collapse of civilization and creature-creating viral outbreaks as movie scenarios are such successful and staple tropes that an explanation as to their origins in any given film is entirely optional now.
And so with Daylight’s End; a cursory visual run-through is given as a wordless montage accompanying the opening credits roll: transparent CGI viruses squirm over red-rimmed maps of the United States; footage of riots breaking out is superimposed over other footage of other riots in other cities breaking out; buildings are in shambles; bonfires are raging; and it’s made abundantly clear that No Lives Matter. Beyond this quick funhouse mélange, there’s no other explanation given, and honestly, none is really needed. It’s obvious from the opening scene that this is going to be an unpretentious romp through your basic monster-whacking apocalypse movie.
The standout of the film has to be the locations and Winona Yu’s set decoration. Shot in the sunbaked wilds of Dallas, Texas, the film does a remarkable job of capturing that grunged-out urban feel commonly found in more depreciated and pulverising environments like New York City or Detroit, the kind of cities which typically come to mind when the theme of post-apocalyptic chaos rears its putrid, decomposing head.
Director William Kaufman has expertly narrowed his shots so as to highlight the few background buildings which would be suitable for filming, giving the whole the claustrophobic feel required for making the cast seem truly marooned in an island of collapse and certain death. Interiors look properly decayed and senescent, with peeling wallpaper, rusted metal, and piled trash filling haunted hallways.
Kelly Riemenschneider’s cinematography and colour correction are noteworthy, as well; the brightly lit exteriors could have easily been blown out and brittle, but he managed to keep them creamy and smooth without losing the desolate, dog-days feel required (especially in Dallas) for a scalding end of the world scenario. With the interiors, he was able to elevate the heat and tension to a fever pitch simply by tweaking the green tones up ever so slightly and allowing the perpetual sweat oozing from the actors to speak for itself in the queasy light; in those scenes, he shrewdly saturated the color just enough to bring out the extreme stickiness, reinforcing the anxiety expected from people trapped in an enclosed space and who are trying desperately to fight off creatures bent on breaking in and consuming them.
Although Daylight’s End offers up some quality technical expertise, it is by no means a perfect film. Surprisingly, the weakest link isn’t the script (though it is pretty bare, as it is with most films of this kind), but with the lead, Johnny Strong, who’s performance is rather light and, at times, a bit hesitant; he spends most of his time avoiding eye contact which reduces his potency as the End Time’s resident Tough Guy.
Following in a long line of similar films, yet better than some (Exterminators of the Year 3000; The New Barbarians) and worse than others (Escape from New York; Dawn of the Dead), it does manage to hold its own somewhere between the two extremes. In the end, though, it can best be summed up as The Road Warrior meets The Omega Man. Not bad company after all.
Ben Spurling, MOVIES & MANIA
” … Daylight’s End is an exceptionally well made film. The budget was relatively low, but that isn’t felt in the film, which appears to play out on an epic scale, with its convincing shots of deserted disaster areas and abundance of action and gunfire. Kaufman knows action, that’s the genre he has primarily been working in up to this point, and he used that knowledge to make the action sequences in this film as cool and thrilling as possible.” Cody Hamman, Joblo
“One of the best things about this film is the action. The gun battles are meticulously choreographed and made with precision. The tactics are sound and the filmmakers have a clear familiarity with the weapons used. The fights are visceral and feel real, making them much more exciting than most of the CGI-laden films that regularly hit our screens these days.” Hugo Ozman, Screen Anarchy
“This movie was obviously a labor of love for both Strong and filmmaker William Kaufman (The Hit List, Sinners and Saints) and will be an enjoyable action apocalypse flick for people looking for something slightly different in their post-apocalyptic zombie movie.” Tai Freligh, Flickering Myth
“Daylight’s End is The Road Warrior (if not the entire original Mad Max trilogy) with a 28 Days Later sub-plot. It’s not original. It’s not inventive, but it does impress with pretty much all of its technical pieces. But snappy editing, epic shoot-out battles, gorgeous locations and scary monsters can’t overcome a subpar script – rife with clichés and stereotypes. And with no character development to speak of…” Michael Klug, Horror Freak News
- Johnny Strong
- Lance Henriksen – Wraith; Stung, Needlestick; Mind Ripper; Pumpkinhead; et al
- Louis Mandylor
- Hakeem Kae-Kazim
- Krzysztof Soszynski
- Chris Kerson
- Chelsea Edmundson
- Gary Cairns
- Mark Hanson
- Heather Kafka
- Sonny Puzikas
- Farah White
- Ed Spila
- Matt Beckham
- Susana Gibb
Baker Hotel, Mineral Wells, Texas, USA
Dallas Municipal Building – 106 South Harwood, Dallas, Texas, USA
The film was released theatrically and via VOD in the US on August 26, 2016.
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