The Harsh Light of Day Review
Written and directed by Oliver S. Milburn
2012, 90 minutes, Rated 18 (UK)
Theatrical Release on 8 June 2012
DVD released on 16 July 2012
Dan Richardson as Daniel Shergold
Giles Alderson as Infurnari
Sophie Linfield as Fiona
Niki Felstead as Maria
Paul Jaques as Tom
Wesley McCarthy as Randall
Masked intruders break into writer Daniel Shergold's home, throw him down a flight of stairs and murder his wife. Left confined to a wheelchair, Shergold sinks into a spiral of depression and boozing. Enter a mysterious figure who promises to help Daniel gain vengeance on those who wronged him, but for an enormous price. At his lowest ebb, Daniel agrees. And is promptly turned into something terrible. Also, ridiculous.
I had no idea where The Harsh Light of Day was heading. Locking its main character in a wheelchair seemed an intriguing idea for a revenge thriller, but Olver S. Milburn's debut movie had no intention of taking that path. When the sinister (but daftly named) Infurnari arrived, I thought it was going down the Faustian deals-with-the-devil route. No such luck. The Harsh Light of Day features the worst wheelchair escape since Batman had his broken spine healed by a psychic nurse in Knightquest (expect not to see this element of the Bane story in The Dark Knight Rises). It's not an inherently bad idea, but the film doesn't handle it very well.
The supernatural aspect of the story sits ill at ease next to the film's villains – a gang of yobs who break into houses to make snuff videos. The direction isn't stylistic enough to make the partnership of chavs and supernatural monsters seem anything less than ridiculous. Neither are the villains menacing, intimidating or scary once they're revisited during Shergold's revenge. During the initial atrocity they're bedecked in black and wearing gear reminiscent of The Strangers. To see them transformed into whimpering British oiks robs the film of its drama.
Which is a shame, since the more violent revenge scenes and some earlier emotional moments really do work. It's no bloodbath, but some good gore gags and subtle effects make the novelist's vengeance a highlight. Shergold himself is a sympathetic character and his descent into semi-alcoholism and misery is very believable. Less successful is the stereotypically villainous, sneeringly infuriating Infurnari. His stiff upper lipped British band of evil feels like a leftover from a (newer, less good) episode of Being Human. Its ending is incredibly derivative, directly mimicking the final moments of at least two big movies of recent years.
The Harsh Light of Day is interesting but flawed. The pacing is slow, the story ambitious but clichéd in places, lacking dynamism and not backed up by the film itself. I feel bad for not enjoying it more, since the intentions seem to have been admirable. It may have seemed like a good idea at the time, but viewed under the harsh light of day, its flaws are all too evident.
Video, Audio and Special Features:
Video, audio and special features will not be graded as this was a screener.