Hell of a Day
It doesn’t take long after an opening monologue about the very vividly expressed feeling of having your brain pour out of your skull for ‘Hell of a Day’ to establish its bleak, post-apocalyptic tone that it subsequently maintains for the rest of its duration. The project successfully combines instances of psychological unease and degradation with visually disturbing imagery that ensure a striking final product that might at times be difficult to digest – the latter expression having more than one meaning.
After setting the mood, the perspective centers around an unnamed young woman, who drives around empty streets and neighborhoods, in search of shelter and a first aid kit to tend to her stomach wound. She finally picks a house and finds what she is looking for, but in the process she gets herself trapped in a closed environment filled with shambling zombies. She seeks refuge in a basement, but as days go by without revealing an escape opportunity for her, her physical strength and mental well-being both start to gradually diminish.
The film, written and directed by Evan Hughes, is a very visually enchanting and technically proficient piece of work that truly delighted us. The locations have been perfectly chosen to fit the desired atmosphere, and everything from the lighting used to the editing style elevate ‘Hell of a Day’ to near ‘The Walking Dead’ cinematography standards. It is also readily apparent that the project borrows a number of elements from the famous zombie series, especially in terms of conceptualization: the zombies transform, move and act in very similar ways. Perhaps they are a bit slower and less immediately aware in 'Hell of a Day', but the points of difference are not major.
However, ‘Hell of a Day’ treats the zombie plotline as an obstacle and does not interact with it too much. This is, of course, a breath of fresh air, since we have more than enough zombie melee skirmishes in basically every undead production ever made. The focus of attention centers on the woman’s deteriorating psyche, and how solitude, lack of oxygen, water and food pushes her to the brink of insanity and unnatural reactions and decisions. In this sense, Evan Hughes’ film is less ‘The Walking Dead’ and more ‘127 Hours’.
Despite these positive directions, however, the project doesn’t add much in terms of content or novelty value to already existing such productions. While we could overlook matters such as unexplained outbreak circumstances, or the origin of the woman’s initial wound, much of the plot is very predictable and unfolds exactly the way you’d expect it to. The reason behind the zombies’ insistence to appear out of the blue and linger around the house, as well as the woman’s refusal to engage in escape attempts while still physically capable, are a bit too stretched to be taken as given.
In spite of its misgivings and propensity to build plot pillars without serious foundations, ‘Hell of a Day’ remains a very strong experience that vividly portrays not so much a post-apocalyptic scenario, as it evidences how the human psyche devolves into a vicious cycle of actions when it is prevented to function properly. This is not a hell of a film, but it is a very good one for sure.