Studio: SyFy - Epic Pictures
Director: Joel Novoa Schneider
Writer: Gregory Gieras
Producer: Patrick Ewald, Shaked Berenson
Stars: Jackson Hurst, Heather McComb, Nick Gomez, Jay Jay Warren, Hana Hayes, Randy Vasquez, Barbara Crampton, Raymond J. Barry
Fifteen years after a worldwide invasion from subterranean creatures, humanity braces for another devastating attack.
In the midst of an eclipse, subterranean creatures ranging in appearance from “The Dark Crystal’s” skeksis to “Resident Evil’s” hallway dog that made gamers sh*t themselves, suddenly swarm the globe. Mankind manages to battle the beasts back underground, though not before millions die in an extinction event that comes to be called ‘The Day of Reckoning.’
With each subsequent eclipse in the 15 years since, sweat has beaded on the brow of every living person. They fear this next descent into night might at last mark the monsters’ return.
Considering what is at stake, namely the lives of everyone on Earth, you’d think men and women would prepare for this eclipse like it could be the end of the world. Since, you know, it legitimately is. Particularly after signs like the mass migration of birds confirm in advance that the upcoming orbit into daytime darkness will indeed begin the day long dreaded.
Not so in “Day of Reckoning.” The movie has nearly no attention to detail that might make it seem serious, even though it thinks of itself that way. With mere minutes to go before the moon’s shadow swallows sunlight, people are still casually driving around town and shuffling into shelters where they should have been hours ago, if not days.
It’s comical how quickly traffic clears, how people leave cars wherever they please, and how orderly soldiers wave people through checkpoints with hardly a hint of hysteria anywhere. Los Angeles can’t keep it together when the Lakers win a championship. As if the city could be remotely this calm when facing impending Armageddon.
From here the story kicks back with a cigarette in one hand and the other patting its belly, taking the easiest road possible to a pat plotline of a broken family struggling to reconnect amid external turmoil. Will the hero and his ex-wife rekindle their romance? Will the cowardly adversary receive his comeuppance? Will anyone at home make it this far before changing the channel?
Even the most slapdash SyFy creature features can usually count on a modicum of professional polish. These productions are often crewed up with experienced people between better gigs. They’re merely looking to cash a quick check for two weeks of work, but they still do a competent technical job, even if it is halfhearted.
Except “Day of Reckoning” is a front to back eyesore and that’s without including the god-awful effects. The flick is an energy-sucking mélange of beige and gray, with scenes set against concrete curves of a dry L.A. riverbed, dusty Southern California hills, and cinder block walls in a fortified bunker. Put a dark wash over everything because of the eclipse and you have consistently colorless settings matching the movie’s murk.
Close-ups can’t be bothered to put a bounce card in front of an actor’s face so it can actually be seen. The camera may even be on autopilot as focus goes in and out oddly. Exterior exposure changes mid-shot during at least one vehicle sequence, as if the lens is fighting itself to figure out what it is even framing.
Then there’s the CGI. Crom help us, this movie’s CGI. Advancements in readily available software long ago invalidated any excuse a 2016 film might have for amateur animation looking like outdated stop-motion. Yet here is “Day of Reckoning” with CG beasties moving as though every other frame is missing to cut back on costs or rendering time. Movies like this can live or die based on how cool its creatures are or how convincingly they are brought to life. “Day of Reckoning” dies.
What’s sad about the acting being halfway decent is you can’t help but feel for the cast. They do what they can with unambitious material and likely flailed around under the assumption that empty air would be filled with killer computer creations. Instead they’re stuck in the slime at the bottom of a barrel built from an assembly line of apathy. It’s a waste of Raymond J. Barry and an even greater waste of Barbara Crampton in an irrelevant role worth a scant few minutes of screentime.
A low-grade level of schlock is expected when dealing with a Full Moon feature. But Epic Pictures knows better. Seeing the company behind the terrific “Turbo Kid” (review here) and holiday horror hit “Tales of Halloween” (review here) drop this deep into a B-movie abyss is dismaying.
At least The Asylum’s silliness often has tongue-in-cheek charm that can make its cheesiness fun. “Day of Reckoning” only has bare minimum enthusiasm, a lame script, and lamer execution. How does that do anyone any good?
Review Score: 30