In theaters tomorrow, August 29, from Anchor Bay and WWE Studios is Doug Aarniokoski‘s The Day. A harrowing film that features Shawn Ashmore (Frozen, Mother’s Day, X-Men), Ashley Bell (The Last Exorcism), Michael Eklund (The Divide), Cory Hardrict (Gran Torino, Battle: Los Angeles), Dominic Monaghan (ABC’s “Lost”, Lord of the Rings Trilogy) and Shannyn Sossamon (One Missed Call, A Knight’s Tale).
In the post-apocalyptic thriller, “A group of five survivors, armed with shotguns, axes and machetes, wander the back roads of a ravaged landscape looking for refuge in The Day, a terrifying look into a post-apocalyptic future. As war ravages humanity, destroying civilization and most of life on earth, the survivors realize they must do whatever it takes to stay alive. Lost, starving, and exhausted, they seek shelter in a seemingly safe abandoned farmhouse. However, while searching for food and resources, they unwittingly set off a trap signaling to their ruthless predators lying in wait to begin their deadly attack. With food and ammunition dwindling, the group must make a desperate final stand—over a 24 hour period—battling for their ultimate survival.”
I recently hopped on the phone with Aarniokoski to talk about the challenges of tackling the post-apocalyptic landscape, choreographing a relentless siege and keeping the audience on their toes. We also talk a little about his next project, Nurse 3D. Head inside to check it out!
What made you want to explore a post apocalyptic landscape and what do you think your film says about humanity?
It’s about good material. It’s about a story that, cinematically, I think I can tell in a way that hasn’t been told before. Something I see a vision for. I’m a movie fan, I’m just like everyone else on a Friday night lining up to see a movie. I love films. I love action. Having worked with Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino for years as an AD [assistant director], that was kind of my film school and they were kind of my teachers.
So when this script came to me it had such great characters and a world I’ve never seen before. Sure, you see some if it in something like The Road but this kind of turns into an action movie a la Assault On Precinct 13, so when I had those two on the same page it was kind of a no-brainer. It was something I could sink my teeth into. Characters that I love and a story I think would be engaging for an audience. And, ultimately, it’s the kind of film I would want to go see. That’s what I love about it the most.
I feel like it makes a singular statement about humanity and the kind of people that survive, but I want to hear from you what that statement is.
You’re going to have a different take on it than me. For me, it was a movie about choices. These characters and what they’ve chosen to do, or not do, and the ramifications of those choices. The same thing with Michael Eklund’s character, who plays the father. His choice was to feed his family, and unfortunately the only meat available didn’t come from animals.
We all make choices for different reasons at different points in our life. And that’s really what this day is about. They’re just trying to make it to the next day in this world.
The movie makes some bold choices. The audience is always on their toes, not knowing who’s going to live and who’s going to die.
For me that was sort of the brilliance of the script. It was there from the get-go. I just had to keep turning the page when I first read it, and that rarely happens. Luke [Passmore; screenwriter] wrote it as a fan would write it. He took what he felt always happened in movies, and turned left away from it.
The second half of the film features a giant siege on the house. You mentioned Assault On Precinct 13 and I also felt a bit of Straw Dogs in that as well. What was the most difficult part about staging that?
You touched on two movies that are huge inspirations for me. And it’s tough to shoot in a box, metaphorically and physically. There’s only so many places you can go. And you’re talking about 45 minutes of relentlessness and how you keep that interesting as a director. I wanted the audience to feel like they were figuring it out with the characters. I didn’t want it to be obvious, where the audience is like “of course they’re going to do that.”
What I’ve seen from Nurse 3D seems absolutely crazy. And Boris Kodjoe told me it was insanely fun set to work on, how nuts does it get?
Imagine Fatal Attraction and Black Swan and then throw it into a hospital. That’s kind of our world. Its a world you’ve never seen before. It’s sexy, yet gritty, violent and nasty. And then it became sexy again. It’s like, “wow!” I could never quite put my finger on what the next scene was going to be when I read the script because it was so wickedly off. And then I did another pass on the script and rewrote the script myself and I took what was already there and amped it up.
It was like a palette that I could throw color on and just go as big and bold as I wanted to in this crazy context of the mind of Abby (Paz De La Huerta) who became obsessive about these men who were cheating and living through infidelity. And now she’s making the world a better place by eliminating them one at a time.
We shot it in 3D which is a first for me. It’s a fun Friday night movie where you have to grab some popcorn and hang on for the ride. So Boris is right when he says it was crazy on set because it truly was.
What was the one thing on Nurse 3D that you didn’t think you could get away with – but you got away with anyway?
The amount of sexuality and combined violence. It was really [nuts]. It’s that kind of movie where you’re like, “how can I portray this and get away with it?” It was about bringing it to the screen in a way that was engaging, erotic, dangerous, scary, nasty and brutal all at the same time. That was the dance for me.