Joseph Walsh Reviews

Film Review: ‘The Harsh Light of Day’

★★★☆☆

Oliver S. Milburn’s The Harsh Light of Day (2012) is a promising, if flawed, debut film from a clearly ambitious director which offers up a modern twist on the Faustian pact, mixed with a revenge tale. After witnessing his wife’s brutal murder at the hands of a snuff-film-making horror writer, Daniel Shergold (Dan Richardson) is left disabled and alone. That is until one night a mysterious stranger offers him a chance to enact his revenge against those responsible for destroying all Dan held dear.

Milburn’s film has achieved a great deal when you consider the obviously low budget. The film is set against the backdrop of Dorset’s south coast which makes for an interesting, original (for the genre) and not to mention beautiful location. The writing is strong and plays with a number of horror conventions. There are notable influences including a twist on the traditional vampire (with nods to Interview with the Vampire’s [1994] Lestat), a revenge tale structure similar to the 1990’s cult revenge classic The Crow and the intruder/victim concept found in the more recent horror The Strangers (2008).

The arc of the story flows well and builds both in tension and horror to a satisfying, if obvious, conclusion. It may seem an odd pairing of a gang of criminals who make snuff films and supernatural horror, however Milburn is just about is successful in his attempts. Essentially what is most attractive about The Harsh Light of Day is how it has used so many conventions and come up with a plot that plays with the typical tropes of multiple sub-genres of horror.

More problematic are the choice of cast which weaken the film. At times some of these performances fail to convey what is necessary for their role. In particular the menace of gang falls short at points, which frustratingly destroys a lot of the well-established atmosphere. This being said Dan Richardson, who takes the lead, does a good enough job of conveying the emotions of a man stripped of all that is important to him. The effects within the film vary in quality, again due to budget, but there are some pleasant flourishes including how the vampire moves at speed without the use of special effects.

The Harsh Light of Day is a flawed yet entertaining experiment that makes good use of multiple horror plots. It provides adequate entertainment and does a good job with a low budget. What we should be asking ourselves is what could Milburn achieved had he been provided with a bigger budget?

Joe Walsh