By David Dent
As the found footage format enters its third decade, what better way to celebrate than another camcorder zombie movie? Wait, come back! This one’s a little different.
Carly (Lynzey Lantz) and her partner Rina (Andrea Nelson) are holed up in a grotty short stay apartment complex while Rina attends interviews trying to get a job. Carly had been training to become a doctor, but a hint at death in her care sees her unemployed and emotionally supporting her despondent girlfriend.
Background radio news tells of a pandemic crossing from Europe to the US, and when Carly is asked to provide medical care to Miguel, the husband of Gloria, both fellow apartment occupants, it’s clear that the infection has reached their complex.
Of course, Miguel turns and is killed, Gloria is bitten and ends up in Carly and Rina’s room where she too gradually becomes one of the infected. The pair realize the extent of the epidemic and set about protecting themselves, using Carly’s medical training to full effect.
Set over the course of sundown to sunup over one day, where Michael Soulder’s debut feature scores, in a setup that feels almost depressingly overfamiliar, is in the complex relationship between Carly and Rina. The latter is, when we meet them, about to break it off, whereas Carly is about to propose. ‘By Day’s End’ (actually, the title is in lower case so you can tell it’s a proper indie film) uses the movie’s events as one long test of their love for each other, and these convincing pair elevate the film above its rather well-worn premise.
It feels almost quaint to see a movie in the found footage format these days, although Soulder mixes up the ‘would they really still be holding a camera?’ sequences with CCTV cameras situated around the complex. There are still moments where you wonder who’s doing the filming, and the reliance on CGI blood always alienates me from what is supposed to be a realistic premise. But there are some good supporting characters here to distract, such as god-fearing Gloria (Diana Castrillon) and tooled up have a go hero Wyatt (Joshua Keller Katz). This wins (just) on the strength of the central performances and Soulder’s determination to keep it gritty despite, or perhaps because of the woefully low budget.