PLOT: In a post-apocalyptic future overrun by vampiric creatures, mysterious loner Rourke is taken in by a group of survivors who may have found a way to escape to a safer place.
REVIEW: While the horror genre has more zombie apocalypse movies to offer than any one person could handle, a concept I've always been interested in seeing explored more is that of a vampire apocalypse, Richard Matheson style. Apparently noticing the dearth of such stories, director William Kaufman and screenwriter Chad Law have provided the genre with DAYLIGHT'S END, a horror/action hybrid set in a post-apocalyptic time period where human survivors appear to be greatly outnumbered by bloodsucking creatures who can only come out at night.
The character we follow through the crumbling remains of civilization is Johnny Strong as the mysterious Rourke, a ripped and tatted taciturn badass from New York who has made his way down to Texas, taking out as many vampires (or "things" as they're referred to here) as he could along the way through the combined use of sunlight and firepower. I was previously most familiar with Strong from his role in THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS, and even though I was never very fond of his character or performance in that movie, I was instantly rooting for him as Rourke. As it turns out, the guy is good at playing the antihero.
Just like in most of the best zombie films, other humans can be just as much of a threat, if not more so, than the human-devouring creatures. While the vampires own the night, marauders are the danger during the day, and the plot kicks off when Rourke rescues Sam (Chelsea Edmundson) from the clutches of some gun-toting scumbags, earning himself an invite to Dallas, where a group of survivors headed up by police officer Frank Hill (Lance Henriksen) reside within an old police station.
Henriksen is the main draw among the group and does a great job playing a leader who has been hardened by the loss of a son. Also making a strong impression are Louis Mandylor as his surviving son and Edmundson as Sam, the character who bonds with Rourke the most and has a plan to get her group out of Dallas.
The vampires have been stepping up their attacks in Dallas since the arrival of a new alpha vampire, so Sam's escape plan needs to be carried out soon. To facilitate the plan, Rourke suggests taking the fight to the vampires, a mission he will gladly lead because he has a personal vendetta against this alpha.
DAYLIGHT'S END moves along at a fast clip, there's never too long between some kind of action beat, but in between the action it still finds time to serve its characters. The actors are given a chance to shine through their characters' dramatic storylines, and then it's time for them to kick some ass. The entire second half of the film is an extended battle that is essentially ALIENS with vampires.
This is a very entertaining and cool horror/action movie, but it did seem to milk the suspense too much sometimes. Scenes of weapon-wielding characters walking through dangerous environments waiting for something to lunge out at them are stretched out too long for my taste, sometimes threatening to make my attention wander. I felt like these could have been cut down a bit, and the film would benefit from having a shorter running time than its 105 minutes, which seemed excessive despite how quickly the story moved along.
I also found the vampires themselves to be a bit underwhelming. As refreshing as the idea of a vampire apocalypse is at a time when the market is being flooded with zombie apocalypse films, there's really not much that sets these creatures apart from zombies. For the most part, they really are just running zombies that happen to burn up when sunlight hits them. As the film goes on, some viewers may even forget that these things have vampire characteristics.
Quibbles aside, 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. Aiding in this endeavor is the score composed by star Strong, which features synth awesomeness and at times takes on a sound reminiscent of Alan Silvestri.
If you like post-apocalyptic tales and/or seeing horror mixed with machine guns and explosions, I recommend scoping out DAYLIGHT'S END.