Following their arrival back home from a book launch party for his new book on the occult, writer Daniel and his loving wife are viciously attacked by a group of masked men who leave Daniel for dead and his wife raped and brutally murdered.
Daniel finds it hard to comes to terms with what has happened to him and his wife and he resents having to have home help since he is now wheelchair bound. Close to the edge his publisher suggests he meets with an associate of his who has a good track record of ‘fixing’ things, including obtaining revenge for crimes that have gone unpunished. Daniel reluctantly agrees to meet the man who offers him a terrifying supernatural way of getting revenge, but as with anything in life, there is a terrible price to pay…
I don’t think it would be spoiling things too much to say that this is actually a vampire film, albeit one which is a good deal more thoughtful than most. Eschewing the usual vampire storylines: pitching one supernatural race against another or humans stumbling across a vampire’s nest thus releasing it to create havoc: The Harsh Light Of Day explores a moral and emotional conflict, from the point of view of a heart-broken man who is forced to make an extreme judgement and put his own life at risk in his quest for the truth.
Writer/director Oliver S. Milburn was just 23 years of age when he made this film and, although it does show some marked weaknesses at times, it is a really good first attempt and Milburn is certainly a talent to watch going forward.
On the plus side the film has a minimalist but decent music score which enhances the images on screen; the story is, for the most part, well told and holds the interest; it has some original ideas (vampires can remember every memory with perfect clarity, both good and bad) and the writer has stuck to his convictions and retained the rather bleak finale. There’s also an interesting argument the vampire makes comparing them feeding on humans with humans feeding on animals; he sees no difference morally.
However, it’s not all good I’m afraid. The film is a little too languidly paced for it’s own good, so much so that it’s probably not a film for many repeat viewings. It’s mostly reasonably shot and edited although there are some bizarre Avid fart type edits and at times it feels like it was shot by two different crews – one group who really knew what they were doing and another who weren’t so sure and it shows up on screen.
There’s some reasonable acting – the wife is played very well by Niki Felstead, and the vampire (played by Giles Anderson), is pretty convincing too, but Oliver Milburn, who plays the lead character, is a little wooden at times and plays Daniel all on one level – mainly all scowls and confused looks. The villains aren’t really fleshed out enough, character-wise, although their reasons for doing what they do – money for snuff films – remains chilling in its relative banality.
Daniel’s revenge is a bit of an anti-climax, unfortunately – I’d hoped that it would be more cathartic than it was, but maybe that’s the point the writer/director is making, that when ‘push comes to shove’ revenge is an empty action, devoid of any true meaning. However, the final scene partly makes up for this with its emotional weight and visually arresting imagery.
As an unusual thriller The Harsh Light Of Day succeeds in grabbing the attention with some novel ideas and with some of its more emotional scenes, for example, Daniel’s first kill is both sad and powerful simultaneously. However, as a vampire film I think it fails to truly deliver what fans of vampire cinema crave the most – erotic gore and a sense of powerful menace.
The Harsh Light of Day is due to be released on DVD on October 1st 2012 and is being distributed by Monster Pictures UK. There were no extras on the review disc, but the forthcoming DVD will include the short film ‘Speechless’, interviews with the director, trailers, a gag reel, deleted scenes and tips on independent film-making