I’m a sucker for Lance Henriksen. The man is awesome, and I’m sure that I’m not the only one who thinks so. In addition to having had quite the career in Hollywood, he’s also an accomplished artist. Not bad for a guy who was illiterate until around age 30. And even though at this point it’s wishful thinking, I’m still waiting for a revival of Millennium. In the meantime, Lance is still keeping busy, this time with his latest role alongside Johnny Strong in William Kaufman’s Daylight’s End. Recently released onto DVD and Blu-Ray, the film has been on the list of several genre fans. And with its blend of horror and guns-blazing action, it’s easy to see why.
The world has succumbed to a mysterious plague that has turned almost all of humanity into vampire-like creatures. Only a few pockets of non-infected humans remain. Three years after the plague hit, mysterious drifter Thomas Rourke (Johnny Strong) is out searching for revenge. After saving a young woman named Sam Sheridan (Chelsea Edmundson) from a roving band of marauders, the duo head to Dallas. There, they meet up with a group of armed but outnumbered survivors holed up in a police precinct, lead by Frank Hill (Henriksen) and his son, Ethan (Louis Mandylor). The group is looking to get out of Dallas, and needs Rourke’s help. Unfortunately, the group has caught the attention of the head (Krzysztof Soszynski) of a group of vampires, who seems keen to get at the survivors.
I’m not the first to say that at first glance, this film looks and feels like an episode of The Walking Dead. The opening scene of the abandoned gas station, a deserted and ruined city, the swarm of vampires that come out at night (okay, not quite The Walking Dead in that regard). In fact, Daylight’s End feels like a fusion of several genre fare, such as Assault On Precinct 13, Mad Max 2, and even hints of Sergio Leone’s Man With No Name trilogy. While there’s obviously some derivativeness in doing so, the movie still hooks you in with its tension and abundance of action, as well as the believability of a ruined city. Credit goes to cinematographer Kelly Riemenschneider for making a film shot on a $2 million budget feel more than that. An added plus to Strong’s casting is his other talent as a composer. Strong’s score adds to the tension and intensity of the action scenes. The vampire makeup effects are also well-realized, although like many low budget fare, the CG blood splatters do take away from the practical effects.
The acting is what you’d typically expect from the action genre. Strong is perfectly cast as your typical badass protagonist, and carries the leading role with ease. Likewise, Henriksen holds his own and is also quite memorable in his grizzled veteran leader role. He can still put up a fight. I mean, killing vampires with a cellphone has to be either ridiculous or pretty badass. Mandylor is the rival to butt heads with Strong in the film, but manages to hold his own. Chelsea Edmundson does well in her performance, although disappointingly, her character mostly serves as a means to develop Strong’s character through talking about his past. Heather Kafka sees more gunplay as Earnesta than Edmundson, but she also suffers the action film stereotype of the underdeveloped grunt. Krzysztof Soszynski does the scary hulking villain type well, though it’s not much of a stretch in the acting department.
As mentioned before, Daylight’s End is pretty derivative in what it does, right down to the characters. There aren’t any big surprises with this one. You can guess how things are going to go with the story once Rourke rescues Sam. And while the film manages to keep the pacing consistent, there are a few far too many scenes where you have characters making their way through rooms, clearing them out. Part of the problem is the fact that Daylight’s End clocks in at over two hours long (104 minutes, to be exact, which is definitely way too long for a movie like this.
However, I enjoyed Daylight’s End for what it was. It’s definitely not a cerebral type of film, nor is it the most original. But with the numerous action moments with your standard action players, it’s still an enjoyable romp. Strong certainly fulfils the role of the hero, and it’s always a treat to see Henriksen. Daylight’s End probably won’t be up for repeated viewings, but it’s still a great time when it’s on.