Monday, October 10, 2016

Day of Reckoning: Demons from Below

It is always a little scary when folklore gets the advantage over science. That is especially true when mankind learns Hell or something very much like it really is buried deep within the Earth and it is fully stocked with demonic monsters. Fifteen years ago, the demons rose up to wreak havoc around the world before returning to their nether-lairs. Signs point to another imminent rising, but this time mankind will be better prepared, except in Southern California. Things get decidedly apocalyptic in Joel Novoa’s Day of Reckoning (trailer here), an Epic Pictures production that premiered this weekend on Syfy.

David Sheppard is a pretty handy guy to have around, but somehow he wasn’t with his family during the last Day of Reckoning. His ex-wife Laura could never forgive him for that, but she still lets him have his regular weekend with their son Tyler, even though it coincides with the original date of the first Day of Reckoning. At least she will still be nearby. The parents of Tyler’s girlfriend Maddy decide this would be a good time for a getaway to Palm Springs. We never get a chance to meet them, so their timing was probably not so hot.

After plan A falls through, Sheppard whisks his son, ex-wife, and Maddy off to Barstow, where his slightly nutty Uncle Ted has a heavily fortified, well-supplied bunker. Actually, Uncle Ted doesn’t look so nutty anymore. Unfortunately, crusty old Ted and his much sweeter girlfriend Stella already have one unwelcome guest—Garrett, a highly unstable military deserter. Of course it won’t be long before Uncle Ted has even more party crashers.

In terms of tone, Reckoning probably falls somewhere in between the creepy JeruZalem and the goofy Big Ass Spider! (two previous Epic Pictures releases). For the small screen and its limited budget, the creatures are pretty impressive. Screenwriter Gregory Gieras also earns credit for agilely acknowledging the potentially heavy cosmic-religious implications, without getting bogged down in them. More importantly, he gives us a lot shooting at demons (logically employing explosive salt cartridges).

TV regulars Jackson Hurst and Heather McComb have decent bickering chemistry together as the former Sheppards. Hana Hayes (who looks so much like Saoirse Ronan, she played her younger self in Stockholm, Pennsylvania) shows better range and restraint than we typically associate with Syfy original films. However, for genre fans, the real treat comes in seeing cult favorites Raymond J. Barry (Sen. Richard Matheson in The X-Files) and Barbara Crampton do their things as Uncle Ted and Stella.

Reckoning is your basic “flock of evil” kind of film, but Novoa maintains a healthy energy level and the creature design work is original and macabre enough to satisfy monster buffs. Recommended as some horror meat-and-potatoes, Day of Reckoning airs again on Syfy next Monday morning (10/17).