Day Zero is a 2022 Filipino zombie action horror, written by Ays De Guzman and directed by Joey De Guzman. Both are fairly active in Filipino cinema, Ays has spent a decade writing for long-running TV shows such as May bukas pa as well as screenwriting a number of feature-length films, on the other hand, Joey has directed multiple shorts, feature-length films as well as some short-running tv series.

When a virus outbreak starts turning everyone in the city into bloodthirsty ghouls, Emon, an inmate with Special Forces training breaks out of jail and decides to fight his way through the hordes to get home to his wife and child.

Incredibly faced-paced from start to finish, Day Zero incorporates a blend of the edge-of-your-seat-tension displayed in Yeon Sang-ho’s Train to Busan (2016) along with the high-octane action scenes of Zack Snyder’s Army of the Dead (2021) to produce an appealing, adrenaline-fueled curvet into the undead territory. Mostly taking place inside an apartment complex, the cinematography of the film gives an excellent representation of this tight, claustrophobic environment. A mix of long, restricted corridors and tiny domiciles certainly exacerbates the life-and-death struggle with the living dead.

Similar to most modern zombie horrors, Day Zero has abandoned the shambling, Romero-esc zombies to focus on the highly-agile, running infected ala 28 Days Later. Featuring a surprisingly brief explanation as to the cause of this infectious apocalypse, a slight mention of a mutated variation of the Dengue virus is said to be the cause of this world-ending scenario. Although this source of the zombie virus is a unique one, the slight explanation feels slightly lazy in its implementation and would have been stronger for its exclusion.

Day Zero 2022 Toronto After Dark 2022

In spite of not being this reviewer’s preferred representation of the undead, these fast-moving counterparts undoubtedly strengthen them as an imposing threat. Their jerky, in-human movement along with their nimble speed and primal screeching create some frantic encounters with the undead. However, as formidable as these creatures are to the rest of the cast, our special forces protagonist Emon, played by MMA fighter Brandon Vera, has no problem dealing with this threat. Implementing the film’s more action-focused scenes, Brandon utilises his skills in mixed martial arts to deliver some impressive scenes of hand-to-hand combat with these undead foes. On the other hand, these scenes do impede on the overall serious tone that is built throughout yet certainly offer some stylish visuals as a counterpoint.

Being an MMA fighter with only a few acting credits to his name, Brandon still delivers an adequate performance overall. Delivering some impressive fight choreography along with sufficient line delivery, his performance falls somewhat flat when it comes to portraying visual emotion. However, due to an incredibly strong performance from the supporting cast, this hardly causes any noticeable distractions during these scenes. A particular standout is delivered by Emon’s deaf daughter Jane, played by Freya Fury Montierro. Her performance relies on a diverse range of body language to deliver her intended emotional range, at which she succeeds rather proficiently.

Day Zero 2022 Toronto After Dark 2022

An exhilarating romp into undead territory, Day Zero delivers an expeditiously beguiling experience from start to finish. Full of tense undead encounters, action-packed fight scenes, and endearing performances throughout; the film still, unfortunately, falls a little short of its intended comparison to its South Korean counterpart. However, held on its own merits, Day Zero is still an enjoyably thrilling piece of Filipino cinema certain to entertain most lovers of zombie horror.


We Watched Day Zero as Part of the 2022 Toronto After Dark Film Festival Line-up

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