I’ll be honest. I’m struggling on how to start this particular review. It’s fair to say that I have seen far worse films than The Harsh Light of Day, but it is pretty damning to sit here afterwards and not have much to say. But let’s try.
First time director Milburn introduces us to Daniel Shergold (Dan Richardson), an author of a new Occult/Supernatural book that he has been working on for some time. With doting wife Maria (Niki Felstead) talking about starting a family, and everyone seemingly very pleased with the book, things are looking up. Sadly for them it all takes a turn for the worse when they are attacked late at night in their own home. Maria is killed and Daniel is left paralysed. We then move forward some time to find a depressed Daniel clearly not coping with his new confines, and the Police Force’s lack of success in finding the attackers. It’s at this point that Daniel is introduced to a stranger (Giles Alderson) who offers him the means by which to get revenge.
The film has several main issues, starting with the script. Some of the dialogue is extremely on the nose and doesn’t sound very natural. This basic mistake ties the hands of the cast from the off, though they do try to make something of it. It struggles through a second act that could have been accomplished in much less time and given us longer with Daniel actually getting his revenge. This also leaves the group of attackers basically shoe-horned in at the end. We get a couple of very short scenes explaining their motivations, but it’s as though everyone suddenly remembered that they had to be dealt with. Though that leads to a frantic final 20 minutes, it leaves the rest of the film feeling rather boring. One character in particular is used often in the first half of the film, only be dropped as things pick up.
Everyone is trying to imbue their character with a little something; they just aren’t generally good enough.
The attacker’s use of a camera to record their crimes is interesting, as is their reason for committing the acts. This also comes into play nicely later when Daniel is hunting them down. It’s the only interesting choice the director really makes, as many others felt very odd. At times we get very Hellraiser-esque images, whereas other times the gore isn’t shown, sometimes when it is less graphic. It’s also quite choppy, which whilst I’m sure there were good intentions, just left me confused as to what was going on. There are several scenes involving vehicles, and some of them seem sped up which also doesn’t make sense.
So the film isn’t great from a technical point of view, but what about the cast? Everyone is trying to imbue their character with a little something; they just aren’t generally good enough. Richardson does get across the pain and anguish his character feels, with one scene involving his despair as he wets himself particularly effective. Although his delivery is often flat, you can tell that he is struggling to balance his thirst for retribution against his new-found life. Alderson, as the mysterious Infurnari is quite frankly terrible and trying way too hard to appear mysterious. The rest of the cast is of a similar quality, though I did find myself hoping the attacking trio got their comeuppance (this might have been due to their chavviness though).
Overall The Harsh Light of Day is a painfully mediocre debut. With a story that sags badly in its second act, through to odd editing choices and an obvious ending, it never really grabs hold of you. Though the cast gives it their best, it doesn’t make the most of its short running time and doesn’t leave any lasting impression.