Two out of three ain’t bad in this triple feature of newer streaming titles. So let’s find out which I felt was the odd man out.
DAYLIGHT’S END (2016)
The original I Am Legend was the beginning of a tradition that blurred the lines between vampires and zombies. The novel was more vampire in tone, with the feeders only able to come out at night—a theme picked up in the movie adaptation The Last Man On Earth, yet the story was also the inspiration for Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, which felt oddly similar to The Last Man On Earth.
Daylight’s End walks that fine line. The feeders in this film are called zombies in the description, however, they only come out at night and burn up in the sun.
When we meet our megahunk at the beginning, it actually feels like I Am Legend…until he meets up with other people. But first we jump right into the creature action. The main hottie fries a vamp, fights vamps, gets shirtless, saves a girl from a gang, and joins her group, which includes Lance Henriksen and Louis Mandylor.
The plot is as standard—and similar to a video game—as it gets (there’s even a boss vamp). The survivors need to stay alive while fighting off vamps, try to come up with a plan to escape their prison (they’re literally staying in a prison), and argue over what the right plan is. They argue way too long about it.
Yes, in the middle of wicked vamp action, the movie screeches to a halt to waste too much time dishing out the usual group dynamic dialogue. 15 minutes should have been shaved off this hour and 45-minute movie, and by that I mean most of the dialogue.
It does pick back up big time in the final act, so it’s totally worth a watch, but just be prepared to be bored for a while in the middle.
SLEEP NO MORE (2017)
Sleep No More comes from the director of Dead Awake, which is one of those movies I know I’ve seen but remember nothing about beyond the poster art and the general sleep paralysis theme. I’ll most likely have the same struggle with Sleep No More in a few months.
It’s set in the 80s. College students are working with an experimental sleep drug that takes their minds to a whole different reality. They begin having hallucinations of a boogeyman. Freddy Krueger on Flatliners Street?
Sleep No More exemplifies what makes so many horror movies, even those clearly with a bit more of a budget than the average indie, ineffectual these days. They try to create multiple layers instead of simply focusing on one good vs. one evil. And I’m not talking just throwing in crazy shit that is somehow ridiculously entertaining, as in Euro horror of the 80s. I mean randomly branching plot points that never quite feel like they stem from the same damn tree trunk. As a result we are left with way too much going on, none of it ever really coming together. And most importantly, any attempts at scares have absolutely no effect because we don’t actually know what we are supposed to be afraid of.
I simply could not stay fixated on this mess of bickering students that all seem to be having entirely different experiences. Most disappointing, we never get to see what could have been the one concrete thing holding it all together—the boogeyman. We just get shadows, smoke, flickers of promise, and warped lens effects.
Even the attempt at setting it in the 80s fails. Sure, we get to hear “Cruel Summer”, “Hungry Like the Wolf”, “Two Divided by Zero”, and “Der Kommissar”. We see a Commodore 64 and an Atari 2600. A guy watches a slasher on VHS. But none of that can convince anyone who grew up in the 80s that this takes place in the 80s. The film quality looks modern and that alone spoils the tone. The kids look and act like they’re from the current day, which is a complete time capsule fail for me.
I originally hesitated to put Sleep No More in my watchlist because I imagined it was going to be the exact disappointment it is. I want more out of my horror than I get here.
For some reason I expected this to be about supernatural cowboys, but I think that is actually another movie I saw on SyFy at some point.
Lasso features real murderous cowboys that target a bus load of tourists after a rodeo show (be warned, there’s a brutal scene during the rodeo with a horse that gets hurt).
We eventually find out why the cowboys are so evil, and it is absolutely ridiculous, but you just have to go with it because the movie is a total joyride of brutal gore and violence.
Plus, some chick dresses like she’s in the Madonna “Music” video…
This film goes beyond just horror in an understated, crucial way. The “final” group is like nothing you’ve ever seen before.
There’s the usual final girl, but she is overshadowed by several other unique characters: an amazingly strong and determined elderly lady character; a gender non-specified rodeo worker whose gender is actually questioned at one point (are they a man or woman?); and the main boy, who is not the usual tough guy hero, but is quite fragile and scared even as he struggles to fight back.
Having us root for this unexpected crew is incredibly refreshing, and those who make horror flicks with the usual stereotypical characters should take note.
On top of that, Sean Patrick Flanery kicks ass as a surviving rodeo contestant without all his limbs.