Title: The Harsh Light of Day
Director: Oliver S. Milburn
Starring: Dan Richardson, Giles Alderson, Sophie Linfield
Released: 8th June 2012
Daniel Shergold lives the life he's always wanted a happy marriage, a beautiful wife and his latest book, a tome on the supernatural and the occult, has just been published to great acclaim. However all of this is taken from him in a seemingly random brutal attack. Three masked thugs break into his home, killing his wife and leaving Daniel paralysed from the waist down. However one of the sources for his book offers to put him in touch with someone, a mysterious figure named Infurnari, who can help Daniel track down his attackers and get revenge. However this help comes at a very dark price...
To begin with, the first thing you need to know about The Harsh Light Of Day is that it is a micro-budget production filmed in Dorset, England. The second thing you need to know is that it is a genre splicing movie, mixing together two different strands of cinema. And I appreciate that these two facts may well not be filling you with excitement...
...For recently, we've had a whole slew of movies that mix the fantastique genres with something else and normally have a 'Vs' in the title. Hence we've had the old West meets science fiction in Cowboys Vs Aliens, the old West meets horror with Cowboys Vs Zombies and Umbrage: The First Vampire, martial arts meets SF in Alien Vs Ninja, and horror meets... erm... porn in Zombies Vs Strippers. And sadly the results have mostly been as creatively bankrupt as the budgets of the majority of these movies.
However the third and most crucial thing you need to know about The Harsh Light Of Day is that it is rather marvellous. It's a very different beast from the likes of the above which have been lazy mash-ups, and whereas most cash-strapped productions look rough this début feature from Oliver S Milburn is carefully polished. The Harsh Light Of Day artfully blends the revenge thriller with the terrors of the horror genre, and delivers a highly memorable tale that's intelligent, gripping and chilling.
Where most of the current crop of genre-bending movies would be taking this recipe and serving up a half-baked Deathwish with werewolves, The Harsh Light Of Day takes a long-standing favourite of weird fiction and artfully juxtaposes it against the unpleasant real-life horrors of crime. And make no mistake, 'artfully' is the right word here, for this isn't a movie where the cathartic thrills of seeing vengeance meted out is achieved by supernatural power-ups. That's not to say that our protagonist Daniel doesn't find the revenge he's searching for or indeed that blood and violence end his quest, but rather this movie asks us to consider the cost of pursuing this personal form of rough justice, and indeed if it is worth the emotional and moral price that comes attached.
However while much of the film is rather bleak, the hard edged themes are handled with a kind of dark poetry rather than grindingly grim base brutality. Milburn understands that there is awe and magic to be found in horror and this is most clearly seen in his handling of the aforementioned long-standing favourite. Now I'm not going to reveal which one of the old guard of monsterdom he's inserting into urban criminal horrors here, however I will say it's not werewolves and there is a clue in the title.
But importantly his handling of this classic terror is one of the best I've seen in a very long time. He not only makes an old, and arguably these days, overly familiar monster horrific again but also presents us with a novel glimpse into their world that is both enchanting and intriguing. Infurnari is a character destined for a cult following and the glimpse into the world he inhabits truly fires the imagination.
As I remarked at the opening of this review, The Harsh Light Of Day is a highly polished piece of work, so much so that I was quite surprised to learn its budget was so modest. And although no one is going to confuse it for a mega-bucks blockbuster, this is a production that drips with quality on every level. We have an excellent script realised with inventive direction and carried by two very strong performances. Dan Richardson is superb as the tortured Daniel however is he somewhat eclipsed by Giles Alderson who is a marvel as Infurnari, and I expect I won't be alone in clamouring for him to return for a second outing. Not that The Harsh Light Of Day needs a sequel, as it is a perfectly rounded story, however Milburn does deliver a peek into a world that could well be explored in further different stories.
So then I have no hesitation in highly recommending The Harsh Light Of Day to you all. Its haunting blend of the supernatural and crime means there's enough going on to satisfy non-horror fans while its intelligence and imagination will delight fans of the genre. Furthermore it is so beautifully crafted, The Harsh Light Of Day deserves to be embraced by all fans of cinema full stop. Film makers who deliver this kind of quality fare on such tiny budgets really deserve your support, and so I urge you all to check out The Harsh Light Of Day. It may be a bleak journey into darkness but there's real movie magic shining in the gritty gloom.