Starring Dan Richardson, Giles Alderson, Sophie Linfield
Directed by Oliver S. Milburn
Distributed by Left Films
The thirst for vengeance becomes a literal thirst for blood in director Oliver S. Milburn’s vampiric micro-budget indie Brit-flick The Harsh Light of Day. When his wife is brutally murdered in their home by a masked gang of thugs, author Daniel Shergold (Richardson) is left wheelchair bound due to injuries sustained in the altercation. Sinking ever deeper into a quagmire of depression, alcoholism and increasingly undeserved abuse of his carer, Fiona (Linfield), Shergold one day receives a telephone call from a mysterious Scottish acquaintance who offers him a chance at vengeance through a meeting with the ominously-named Infurnari (Alderson).
The well spoken, yet obviously unhinged Infurnari lays down the deal: Shergold will be given the power and means to exact revenge on those who monstrously wronged him, but in doing so must turn his back on everything he has ever known and loved, not to mention withstand the pains of a particularly excruciating transformation. Of course, by now you’ve totally guessed it and poor Daniel is indeed about to be turned into a vampire. It’s also around this point that The Harsh Light of Day begins to completely fall apart just as quickly as its pacing slows.
Daniel’s subsequent recovery from his physical condition and struggle to come to terms with what he has become is obviously to be the focus of Milburn’s ambitions, however The Harsh Light of Day offers next to nothing during its crawling second act that hasn’t been said, or done, equally, better, or indeed worse elsewhere. As sympathy for the well-conceived character of Shergold is all but completely removed over the course of these plodding scenes, patient audiences will hope to see an impactful third act of bloody retribution heaped upon those most deserving of it as means of remuneration. Unfortunately, this too is almost completely botched by the film’s constant struggle to thematically elevate itself – not to mention the obvious restrictions of the very, very small budget.
The Harsh Light of Day hides away from its initial villains for far too long, adding little weight or character to them — and in doing so ensures that the rather neat revelation of their motivations carries little momentum, while Shergold’s laughably truncated investigation into their whereabouts sees the final confrontation arrive and depart with little impact on either side – hell, Shergold himself plays minimal part in the climactic butchery, having adopted the role of kitchen-chair-bound pincushion for the majority.
An ably-handled, striking (and pretty original) transformation sequence aside, The Harsh Light of Day’s budgetary limitations are obvious throughout with only sporadic episodes of inventive cinematography raising an eyebrow, and very little offered in the way of violent set-pieces or special effects. A driven, convincing cast bears little recompense for a script that simply fails at every turn, failing to latch onto the existential crisis that it truthfully seeks to explore. It leaves a weary narrative that offers nothing new to seasoned genre viewers. That is not to say that The Harsh Light of Day is a completely worthless mess – ultimately, it forms a competently crafted story but it’s one so constantly entrenched in combat between its more lofty thematic ambitions and the mire of chore-like derivativeness that it becomes very difficult to recommend. Hell, the final scene is almost a carbon copy of a more successful commercial genre release from recent years that shan’t be named lest you guess even the finale.
The Harsh Light of Day is released on DVD and iTunes in the UK on July 16th. The screener copy unfortunately did not shed any light on available special features.
1 1/2 out of 5