Days of Darkness (2007)

Days of Darkness (2007)

Humanity makes its last stand

A young couple on their way home from a romantic camping trip in the hills return to civilization to find that most of the population is dead and now walking around as zombies. They get into a bit of trouble when their car is surrounded by zombies but they are rescued and taken to a deserted military facility where a few survivors have holed up for the night. It seems as though a comet crash landed on Earth and released alien spores which attempted to fuse with humans in order to make a new species.

 

Low budget zombie films are arguably the worst kind of horror film out there. Revolving around the same story, mainly cast with friends of the director or even worse, the crew themselves, and costing little to make, they’re usually the film of choice for people trying to break into the horror genre at the basement level. Whenever zombies are back in vogue, there’s dozens of trashy third-rate zombie flicks hitting the shelves to cash in. I guess it’s the same with any horror sub-genre when it becomes popular: slashers (thanks to Scream), vampires (back in fashion thanks to Twilight), etc. but zombies are the easiest to pull off simply because the films need little imagination to make. Thankfully, Days of Darkness manages to buck the trend by being both low budget and actually pretty entertaining, if not perfect.

The first half of the film is promising enough when the film sticks with the generic zombie flick formula. There’s a blink and you’ll miss it explanation of what is going on. A few stock characters are introduced. The survivors find somewhere secure to hole up for a while. The survivors then constantly argue and fight amongst each other. All the while, the zombies surround the perimeter, clearly waiting or the inevitable “OMG they’ve found a way in” moment towards the end. The bunker setting is claustrophobic and it’s never a good sign to know that there’s only one way in and one way out!

I love how any horror film has to have a diverse array of characters too for conflict and arguments. I’m sure that if anything like this happened in real life then any group of survivors would be made up of normal people like me – not gays, ex-servicemen, bible-bashers, ex-prostitutes, drug addicts, etc. I know it’s only to allow for more conflict between characters as diverse people with differing morals and beliefs clash but it’s still tired and cliché. The script doesn’t give them enough to argue about either because we don’t really know much about them. There is a token scene in which the characters sit around and talk about their ‘previous life’ before the zombies hit but because most of them are irritating for one reason or another, there’s no connection with the cast. Do we really care if they survive or not? And if this is the last of the human race, would we actually want them to survive and rebuild the planet knowing that 90% of them are assholes?

But then the film falls apart with a mess of ideas about alien parasites taking over the bodies of the humans and then mutating their DNA to create alien babies. The film shifts from Day of the Dead to Invasion of the Body Snatchers and this gear change doesn’t go down too well. Rules established in the film are broken to accommodate this newer approach (like how some zombies behave human whilst possessed and others just shuffle around like traditional monsters). The zombies become less of a focus and less of a threat because we now know they’re just possessed by an alien parasite. Find a way to stop the aliens and you’ve got the problem solved! The zombies don’t really look ‘zombie-like’ at all and they lack the typical crustiness and rotting flesh that have become associated with the walking dead. The back of the box promises 2 billion zombies and I’m sure there were – in theory.

Gore and splatter effects are of the usual low budget variety meaning that they’re hit and miss when they’re shown. And they’re not shown a lot. I do think that this is the first film that has approached the subject of zombie genitalia though!

In reality though, the zombies in these films aren’t the main focus of the film – they’re there simply to keep the characters trapped somewhere. The real fun of these films is watching how the human cast slowly form allegiances, turn on each other, support each other and show their true characteristics. There are no big names to the cast or even recognisable faces so it’s easy for this group of actors to make the parts their own without fear of being overshadowed. The cast do alright with the material – there are no standout performances but no one is overly bad. At least the script keeps things fresh and the whole alien spore plot just really pulls the rug from under you to keep you guessing until the end.

 

Days of Darkness could have just been your standard low budget zombie film but by mixing a few wacky ideas in with borrowing themes from classics of the past, it puts a novel spin on the material which works in a very odd way. It shouldn’t be good. It doesn’t really deserve to be good. But it is good, bizarrely enough!

 

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