Johnny Martin’s Final Days take its time with its story but wisely uses that time to build up a great sense of desolation for the survivors as the action becomes more and more intense. While not reinventing the wheel, this is a surprisingly solid film.
A world in chaos, a pandemic left unchecked and humanity on the brink of extinction. This is no time to be alone! As a deadly virus turns society into bloodthirsty plague carriers, it’s a fight for survival. Aidan (Tyler Posey) awakes to discover the world he knew overnight has become an apocalyptic nightmare. Locked in his apartment alone, he soon begins to lose all sense of time, and as food runs out, he must face the world to survive. Is there anyone out there, and can they, in turn, be trusted?
Final Days is a film that surprises how effective it is for such a straightforward story paced well in three tidy acts. The first act sees us and Aidan learn about the pandemic that is running wild as the world outside his apartment ventures into madness. With the television on emergency channels, he can only watch in horror as people get attacked. A timely news bulletin alerts him to what to look out for when he is given a traumatic decision to make. After that, we watch as he tries to stay hidden and survive for a month with only the food and water he has in his apartment. When the electricity goes out, we fear the worst for him.
This first act resembles an awful lot like the first half of Will Smith’s I Am Legend (which had an astounding first half before it turned to, well, you know.), we see how the loneliness and vlogs are used by Aidan to keep himself sane. Still, as with any prolonged bouts of solitude, only so long a person can get by on their own.
The second half is where the film begins to pick up as Aidan is left with no option but to leave his apartment and is spurred on when he sees someone else across the way (Summer Spiro’s Eva). This contact, even in written form, brings life into Aidan and gives him something to cling to. But with being in such a dangerous environment, having another person, even if it is a stranger to care for, brings its own worries and difficulties as the infected get too close to both.
With the third act, we can delve more into the apartment building and a way for the two to connect and find refuge together. Sadly for both, this involves one leaving their building, and this is when the film finds its urgency and a lot more of its emotion. As you would expect with a film such as this, we have that slow build in the first act to get to know Aiden and then we have to give him something to live for before throwing that all in danger in the third act.
It is not an original story; in fact, it has been used in a multitude of ways before, even in a zombie/infection environment. Final Days are making it all work, thanks to how small the entire piece is. We never leave the apartment block, and everything seems so enclosed that it allows you to feel for the few sparse characters in the film. Perhaps it is because of this current pandemic, but the feel of that isolation that Aiden feels is so relatable that it almost becomes too relatable. Instead of zombies altogether like in the film, we see in our world groups of people who possibly have the disease mingling and obviously transferring it to others. We wisely stay as far away as possible until it all goes away.
Our infected people work tremendously well as there doesn’t need to be too many prosthetics on them; we learn that eyes bleeding is a dead giveaway, and these 28 days later style infected (remember Danny Boyle and Alex Garland don’t like you calling them zombies) people have an added edge to them, they can speak. Now they cannot carry a conversation, but they can repeat some lines they must have said in their past, which makes a pretty interesting change up as it allows the audience to know which infected person is coming towards Aidan or Eva from a distance.
These people also have enhanced ability, that or everyone who lived in this apartment block were all top-level parkour enthusiasts. Some of the stunt work here is phenomenal as they run and clamber up the balconies to get to their prey. This twist on the generic zombie trope gives the film that added boost of originality and allows it to step out from the crowd a little more.
By having these people be so athletic or energised, Final Days can allow for a severe threat level to remain throughout; we can fully believe that they can beat down that door, even if there is a fridge in the way or climb up to Aidan’s balcony if they catch him outside. With no idea on how long these people can last without food, Aidan and Eva’s battle will be so much more than just waiting it out due to their continually decreasing food supplies.
The one actual downside to Final Days is that opening; we do not need that flash-forward for s to go back to when everything started. By doing so and having us catch up to that point so early on, we lose the power in that moment when it happens in our time. We don’t get that big build to his utter desolation in being so alone.
Questions also have to be asked about Eva and Aidan; it is never fully explained how these two have never caught each other in the 40 odd days they have been hiding away in their apartments. Sure they close their curtains etc., to hide away, but they surely would have poked their head outside at some point, right? Also, we see Aidan live the scruffiest of life as he tries to fend for himself with limited to no running water. So how on Earth is Eva living an apparent perfect existence across the way? Especially as she most certainly left her apartment.
Even though those questions have to be asked, they also don’t necessarily need to be answered. We can get by without it, thanks to the compelling performances from both Posey and Spiro. Posey is almost running a one-man show throughout and is compelling enough to keep the audience interested. If he isn’t, then the film is utterly lost. Spiro does solid work for the limited time she is in the movie, but Donald Sutherland almost steals the entire thing with his tragic portrayal of Edward (the less said, the better for those wanting to view the film).
Final Days are far better than you could have expected for a film like this, and it is a testament to the cast and the direction with some decent pacing and great shots. A special mention to the production design team as they have to make sure that we are in the apartment for the length of time that it looks as lived in (and continually more lived in as the days go by) as possible. Just excellent work from Eric Weiler, Ryan Kaercher and Anna Karakalou.
In the end, this is a great enough little film that does bring some nail-biting moments but is at its best when showing the need humans have of having that connection with another, no matter the situation—a solid horror.
Signature Entertainment presents Final Days on DVD and Digital Platforms 12th April.
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