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Friday, 9 January 2015

The Bad Days (2013)

Director: Greg Keras
Stars: Diana Miller Streater and John McCann
This film was an official selection at the 10th annual International Horror & Sci-Fi Film Festival in Phoenix in 2014. Here's an index to my reviews of 2014 films.
If the Horror Shorts B set at the 2014 International Horror & Sci-Fi Film Festival was the most depressingly poor selection I've seen in years, at least it ended on a notably strong note. Bright Eyes was a brief bright moment midway but it took until film seven, One More for the Road, for things to look up and that left just one short left to save the day. Fortunately The Bad Days is easily the best film in the set, just as powerful on a second viewing when I knew the twist and what everything was building up to. In fact, this is one of those films that deserves a couple of viewings, one to be rooked between the eyes by the realisation that arrives at the end and another to ponder the ramifications of what that means. The seemingly blasé title is actually highly appropriate as it has three very strong meanings: an obvious one as we watch, one that only becomes clear at the finalé and a third that reflects the current situation that society is in when this sort of material resonates beyond the screen. Extra kudos to writer/director Greg Keras for that.

Almost all of the twelve minutes that this picture runs are spent confined to the apartment of Richard and Marjorie Davies, appropriately given the circumstances. They're stuck in the big city while the apocalypse rages outside, for reasons that become clear through television news footage and a brief flashback to the beginning of the end. Diana Streater is surprisingly short of credits given how well she emotes Marjorie's plight; she only has one other to her name and that's as part of an ensemble cast in a 2012 thriller called The Class Reunion. She really sells this story, as she struggles to stay strong as civilisation collapses, not only for her own sake but for her husband's. Richard has become infected and she's keeping him tied up in the bedroom, where he lies in his own effluent, parched and restless with overt struggle marks around his wrists where he's fought against the ropes. She updates her diary in the bath by candlelight and tries to keep quiet, because they're out there.
I really want to talk in detail about this film because there's so much here to comment on, but all of it can only be brought up by exposing the twist, which I won't do because you really deserve to see it without a spoiler first. Instead I'll have to settle for doling out praise, beginning with Streater and her co-star, John McCann, who needed to be good for the film to succeed and were thankfully excellent. I've seen McCann before, in Eternal Damn Nation, an ambitious but massively flawed horror short, and I'm not surprised to discover that my notes call out his acting there too. The choice to remain inside almost throughout is the best one that could have been made to maintain the tension. In fact, I wish they'd have repositioned the flashback so as to have not affected that; it would have played better earlier on. The set decoration is a plus too, because, while Marjorie is coping, the pressure is telling and the place is a mess, right down to an effective dead cat. And surrounding it all is Greg Keras's script, which is a neat, topical gem.

1 comment:

GregK said...

Mr. Astell,

I very much appreciate the review and, most of all, the fact that you enjoyed our picture.

The Bad Days was a marathon five-day shoot, and the crew was second-to-none.

I'm very glad our film struck a chord.

Thanks.

- Greg Keras