DIRECTOR Oliver S. Milburn WRITER Oliver S. Milburn STARS Dan Richardson; Giles Alderson; Sophie Linfield DVD 7 October
As a psychological journey of one man’s dealing with the pain of a traumatic experience and consequences of his actions, The Harsh Light of Day is a vampire tale where the vampirism is almost irrelevant, simply a tool for what becomes essentially a revenge thriller. A revenge thriller that does not thrill, having made little of its psychological journey…
Daniel, a newly-published occult writer, has a happy marriage — an entirely unnecessary sex scene underlines that point already hammily made — but his celebrations will not last long; the same night of his launch party, a trio of hooded assailants break into his home and beat his wife to death with a crowbar, Daniel himself left crippled after the attack. Naturally bitter, a mysterious figure by the name of Infurnari offers to give him the attackers, at a price. Thus, Daniel is converted to a vampire, and uses his supernatural senses to hunt down the men police are unable to find.
Running below 90 minutes, The Harsh Light of Day still manages to drag, its detailing hazy. The assailants are part of a snuff racket, filming their murders for a gangster who sells them on, yet this is skimmed over, largely told by a tiresome found-footage element. Daniel’s conversion and struggle with his new state of being is rushed, too much run-time having been spent observing his initial misery — during which he actually comes across as unlikeable, the script emphasising his bitterness a little too much. That script is, at points, cringeworthy, including a speech from Infurnari about the virtue of vampires, their morals compared to people. Some appalling acting does not assist matters.
What does go in the film’s favour is the emphasis on conventional physical violence, as opposed to blood-sucking. This is unexpected, and complements the view that this may in fact all be occurring in Daniel’s head; simply a violent fantasy fuelled by his own creative mind and need for revenge and closure that he is too frightened to truly pursue. Thus, the somewhat predictable end could be interpreted in two ways: either refusal to accept what he has become, or inability to cope any longer. This view does however feel kind to filmmaker Oliver S. Milburn, regardless of first-time feature attempt; overall, The Harsh Light of Day is an arduous affair that provides no value for the subgenres it attempts to straddle.