Ah zombies, how I love the myriad ways in which you are foisted upon us by filmmakers big and small. Whether it’s Romero’s mysterious plague of walking dead or Danny Boyle’s fleet-footed angry slaverers, you come at us from radiation, gas leaks, military experiments gone wrong and voodoo magic. Though you may lack the élan of the more stylish undead at the vampire-end of the spectrum, I have to admire your resourcefulness. In Days of Darkness, the zombies are caused by parasitic aliens dropped by a passing comet, who replace our genitals with little wriggly pink aliens and make us develop that urge for a late-night, all-you-can-eat brains diner.
First things first – that description makes writer/director Jake Kennedy’s effort seem like it might be a decent prospect for some visceral thrills, but that’s sadly not the case.
Kennedy’s first mistake is to take that directorial tenet of horror – don’t let the audience get bored – a little too much to heart. Fast-paced is one thing, but Days of Darkness moves its plot along with the frenzied, desperate speed of The Plot Bits in a porn movie, as if it’s embarrassed to be spending time exploring a story or working on its characters when it could be making more use of the dozen or so extras they thoughtfully employed as a zombie horde. Even the cuts are often weirdly-rapid fade-outs before the last line of a scene has quite finished. Half right, then – but the filmmakers have more to be embarrassed about than just plot and characterisation.
Back stories are dispensed with in seconds, which is actually a relief, given the brain-manglingly stereotypical nature of our companions for the ninety minutes: an ex-soldier hard nut who takes charge; the son of a preacher who thinks it’s all straight out of the Book of Revelation; the irrational middle-aged man with a shotgun who takes the second-rate Captain Rhodes from Day of the Dead role, threatening every single member of the cast with execution throughout his sixty-minute rant. Minus points, too, for a really unpleasant streak of homophobia masked beneath the auspices of religious fervour, as said religious nut job attacks Simon The Token Homosexual first with the words of the Old Testament and, later, with a big knife in the head.
The most lovable character, whom we shall call ‘Ginger Woman’ (the film doesn’t deign to offer us many names, except for ‘Slasher’ the car dealer, of whom Kennedy seems inordinately proud – slashes zombies and prices, y’see), is a potty-mouthed, feisty porn actress who claims to have ‘fucked 8,000 men, 2,000 of them in the ass’ the first time we meet her, and later demonstrates the art of spitting in a man’s face from a clear twelve feet. Classy gal.
The pièce de résistance of any zombie movie, though, has to be the zombies themselves. These ones are created by aliens whacking parasites into crotches left, right and centre, but that’s barely relevant – they’re shambling, Romero-style brain-gobblers all the same.
The catch is that they’re some of the worst zombies ever committed to film – at least Return of the Living Dead and its third-rate cousins attempted some effects, or went for the threat of numbers with some CGI or more than twenty extras. The zombies here are marked out by nothing more than a slight snarl and a smattering of blood round the face: they’re more like an infestation of rednecks with nosebleeds than a relentless undead menace. No rotting flesh, red eyes, pointy teeth, bits falling off or other discernible zombie features. The fight scenes, then, are a turgid progression of terrible actors hitting even worse actors with spades.
The compound in which our intrepid heroes hole up is a warehouse and three fences, sometimes menaced by up to SIX OR SEVEN slow-moving idiots-with-nosebleeds at a time. The tagline of the movie goes ‘Two Billion Zombies. Eleven Humans’, which is a little rich, but I guess ‘Almost Twenty Zombies’ doesn’t have the same ring to it, and we’re not dealing with the kind of filmmakers who would fear the might of the ASA.
There is unintentional comedy to be had, though. Our hero Steve Turner’s (think low-rent Jake Gyllenhaal) first encounter with a zombie is spectacularly inept. Drawing out a tiny pen knife that wouldn’t get a stone out of a My Little Pony’s foot to tackle an unknown is one thing, but when it’s attached to your car keys and you subsequently lob it off a verge, you have to ask questions.
Even funnier, in a tragic sort of way, is the fabulously terrible continuity error which says everything that needs to be said about the care with which this was put together. One of the characters escapes the compound in a 4×4 to fetch help, which is then seen in the parking lot of the compound for the remainder of the film. Amazing.
Utterly defunct of tension, horror, memorable scenes, and not even enough redemptive comedy value to make it worth a watch, Days of Darkness truly is one of the worst zombie movies of recent years. And I’ve seen Island of the Damned and Chopper Chicks in Zombie Town.
ExtrasYou can choose to have the audio in stereo or surround sound for EXTRA TERROR, and there’s a trailer, which is worth watching if only for the impressive editing that makes the main feature not look like an absolute crock.
Days Of Darkness is out now.