Carly (Lyndsey Lantz) and Rina (Andrea Nelson) are a budding couple looking to get a new lease on life. As an unknown plague threatens to make its way stateside, the two want to get new jobs, pursue new passions, and move forward as one. Soon, the plague appears to hit their once-quiet apartment complex, and with the help of former soldier Wyatt (Joshua Keller Katz), they have to fight to make it to their new lives together first.
A word of warning for those looking to screen this film: I don’t know that this is a horror film in the traditional sense. If you come looking for gruesome violence or head explosions, as one might expect from a zombie film, you’re not going to be satisfied. In fact, what gore there is on-screen is shockingly not well done. Low-budget as this film is, the zombie effects are fine, but the gore is blatantly put in post, and it just doesn’t look good.
Were the focus on zombies, that would be damning. But this isn’t a traditional zombie film, but rather a romantic tragedy against a backdrop of a zombie apocalypse. Without giving anything away, the center point of this tale is the love story between Carly and Rina, and the best part is that while it is explicitly queer, outwardly and openly queer, it is not done in such a way that is gratuitous or even through the “male gaze.” No excessive or explicit sex scenes, no random non-descript nudity, and very little suggestive innuendo. This love story is written like any other love story, and doesn’t have to rely on cheap tricks or selling sex to get it across.
The found footage presentation is always an odd one for me, because when it works, it works well, like in Unfriended or Paranormal Activity. When it doesn’t, it’s not great. The use of not only Carly’s new documentary camera, as well as the security footage of the apartment complex, makes it feel very real, not to mention a real-time event. The full scope of the events of By Day’s End is within a few hours, despite the film running about seventy minutes (excluding the credits). I can understand the hesitation some may feel when they hear the phrase “found footage,” but with this particular film, one shouldn’t hesitate.
This was, all told, a pleasant surprise. It doesn’t feel longer than it actually is, it doesn’t go excessive visually, and the story told feels like how people would act during a cataclysmic event. And after seeing how some folks acted during this pandemic, I feel far more confident in that last assertion.
By Day’s End is available to stream via Amazon Prime Video, and was released by Breaking Glass Pictures.