I’m never quite sure how to approach Left Films’ output. On the one hand, these movies are cheap, derivative and lower than the lowest common denominator, while on the other you become so dispirited by the likes of Cowboys & Zombies and Ninjas vs. Vampire that you feel you really ought to give them some credit when they do finally get it slightly more right.
There is no getting away from the fact that their latest, The Harsh Light Of Day, is amateurish; that it’s filmed without style, scripted without flair and – at a mere 90 minutes – is far too short to really explore any of its characters, themes or fledgling mythology. But with a first-time feature director, a cast of unknowns and an estimated budget of around £100,000, what are you to realistically expect?
The most striking thing about The Harsh Light Of Day is that it is competently made, setting it immediately apart from its various aforementioned peers. Stripped down, without excessive (read: schlocky) effect-work and showy (read: irksome) dialogue, the film is actually very watchable. As it pursues its yarn of a supernaturalist author (Dan Richardson) robbed of his wife and subsequently crippled by a gang of masked men, offered the chance of revenge by an enigmatic stranger (Giles Alderson) who promises not only renewed health but immortality, Oliver S. Milburn’s film genuinely holds interest. It won’t amaze you, but it won’t offend you either.
Part of the film’s (limited, and this cannot be overstated) success is in its writer-director’s intermittent attention to detail. For every laughably pained flashback to the earlier tragedy there is a moment of recognisable frustration as Richardson’s Daniel Shergold comes to terms with his reliance on a wheelchair. For every bland and awkward camera movement there is one artfully framed shot from within the door of a fridge. For every clichéd expression there is a line that smacks of truth or wit (“You killed her. I just broke her neck”/”You look like a bunch of chavs”). Although minimalistic, the film does more than just carry its narrative from A to B: it does so whilst building a surprising amount of tension. You really start to fear for the characters’ lives. Even the supposedly evil ones.
So, while The Harsh Light Of Day might do little to revitalise the vampire genre (there was considerably more innovation and enjoyment to be had in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode of the same name), it is by no means unwelcome either. With the resources at hand, Milburn has produced a film (released in limited U.K. cinemas on June 8th, 2012) that he can be genuinely proud of. There are many high profile and big name directors out there who can’t always say the same thing. Or didn’t you see Dark Shadows?