PLOT: While investigating the mysterious abuse of a little a girl in a rural Indiana town, a trio of Child Protective Service agents unearth a hellish supernatural presence. Or do they?
REVIEW: Outside of a quick IMDB logline scanned prior to screening, I had zero foreknowledge of DAYLIGHT - the feature writing/directing debut of David McKracken, Joel Townsend and Kaidan Tremain. I'm somewhat glad such was the case, for had I known what a cheap and derivative low-budget mess the film is, I may have opted to watch Stallone's DAYLIGHT - a good bad movie - instead. A real shame considering how the mysterious build-up for the first hour or so here actually kept me invested enough to honestly want to know how it all turned out. Unfortunately, the last half hour of the flick devolves into a confusing jumble of inexplicable Lynchian motifs (the worst of Lynch) and random incoherent visuals that make you wonder why these guys even stretched this sucker out past the 60 minute mark. At its best, DAYLIGHT is a third-rate PARANORMAL ACTIVITY knockoff. At its worst, it's, well, a third-rate PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4 knockoff.
The title DAYLIGHT refers to the small Indiana town the film is set in. We meet a couple of young Child Protective Service agents - Dave and Josh - played by themselves, David McKracken and Josh Riednor. They've taken a case involving a little girl named Sydney (Sydney Irons), who we learn has a hot-tempered mom and a rash of inexplicable bruises that appear on her body while asleep at night. Dave and Josh enlist their partner Jennifer (Jennifer Bacon) and decide to figure out what the f*ck is going on, eventually placing a surveillance camera in the home. Cue the static nighttime bedroom shots and green filter-gel, a doorway suddenly opening, a little girl waking up and...well, you already know. Along the way we encounter a shady priest (Patrick Andersen), a slutty teenager (Jeanine Cameron) and a whole lot of headache...as the weak script, utter lack of resources and a bit of laughably ham-fisted acting quickly become redolent of pure amateur hour. I admire the attempt, I admire the will to get out and make a movie, but I do not envy nor condone the result.
Narratively, DAYLIGHT is presented to us as two unedited police tapes, which is supposed to account for all the shaky, found-footage camerawork...abrupt cuts, dropped frames, distorted resolution and sound, etc. Now, I understand the clever necessity to write a story that justifies its own low-fi aesthetic, but the story still has to be compelling. Sadly, DAYLIGHT slogs for the first hour or so through pure mystery, slowly mounting intrigue, yet right at the point where the film does just enough to keep the viewer mildly attuned, the rug of coherence is quickly yanked out and we're all left scratching our heads. At least I was. Thought provoking ambiguity is one thing, completely abandoning your deeply mysterious setup is another. Unfortunately, DAYLIGHT isn't strong enough in other areas to overlook such a total letdown.
Now before this gets too bloody, let me express what I think did work in the film. First off, Jennifer Bacon for the most part gives a solid, believable performance. With a tad more experience than her cast-mates, it's clear Bacon is the most capable of swinging from the lighthearted to the downright frightened, doing so quite naturally. Sadly, the only one up to her equal was the little girl Sydney Irons, who also has a very natural onscreen presence. She's quiet, she's creepy, she's reserved. When those two were on display (along with Cameron as the troubled Susan) my attention was fully held. I definitely look forward to seeing those gals in future projects, no doubt. As for this one though, again, I did enjoy how offset I felt during the first act or two, as just enough was shown and told to string us along. But an absolutely unsatisfying resolution, not to mention a completely off-the-rails third act - make the entire experience pretty irksome. I mean, when you come to trust that a filmmaker will safely guide you through the murky reeds of mystery to an "ah-ha" place of enlightenment, only to have that very trust completely betrayed by being left out in the dark...well, that's just no fun. That's all setup and no knockdown.
In totality, DAYLIGHT is about as inspiring as its own title. Not very. Its story and technical framing device are both unoriginal, with resources so limited you might assume it a student film. These are pretty damming qualities alone, but not alone worthy of dislike. No, the downer here rather comes from the semi-interesting setup that falls utterly flat, something that is bound to leave a somewhat invested audience member thoroughly dissatisfied. Disappointed. Disinterested. Outside a couple of believable acting turns in an otherwise ludicrous story, DAYLIGHT has a hard time shedding its own shadow. If I were you I'd skip it.