The weather’s on the fritz and it’s forced a new predator out of its normal habitat and into direct conflict with the human population of a small seaside town.
I’m a sucker for creature features. If it looks like a film might have a good monster, I’m there. Because of that I was excited (hard to believe, I know) when I stumbled onto a teaser trailer for this Danish YA adventure. I find it hard to watch films that target a younger demographic because (to be frank) I just can’t relate much anymore, but darn it — there’s monsters. I had to give it a go. It’s taken nearly a year to track the film down, but I had the chance recently to check it out. Thankfully I can say it was worth the look.
At it’s heart, the film is appropriately about overcoming fear. Having the courage to do what you know is right, regardless of the imposed obstacles. Enter Danny; the unlikely protagonist of this story. He and his younger brother William go to the same school, but experience very different existences. Danny goes along to get along and as a result is generally liked by his schoolmates. He has a talent for the sciences and is a darn good artist to boot having honed his drawing skills from stealing looks at the unattainable girl across the room.
William is a loner, preferring to stay to himself, but also suffering from constantly being picked on by the schoolyard bullies. It doesn’t help that he refuses to take this abuse sitting down. Danny sees and knows what’s going on, but because of his own fears — opts at turning a blind eye to things. When confronted by William about why he wouldn’t help him, Danny actually reacts by insinuating that his brother brought things on himself. It’s hurtful and further draws a wedge between the two. Both their parents are fairly clueless about it (boys will be boys, after all), but this isn’t to say they’re bad parents. They still manage to be present enough to give their kids some positive structure and sage advice, but it’s the real world and they’re both handling crises of their own.
It’s in this environment that animals attack.
The film opens, as these movies do, with the creatures attacking a small shipping vessel. The first appearance is over quickly and mysterious like and subsequent showing of the monsters are offered in bits and blips. We don’t get a full look at the deathly beasts until about 3/4 of the way in. It’s all handled very well, however.
They drip feed us little elements of the creature’s biology and our young protagonist’s skill set comes in handy gradually throughout the film. It’s not just Danny who helps piece things together though, he has some help from his little brother who’s appropriately less afraid of them than his older sibling and his contributions come organically through that fact. The adults (the few who survive) in the film turn out to be the least helpful and are amusingly used as a mechanism to introduce further fear and doubt into our heroes.
The monster design is no frills. A cross between an anglerfish and a chameleon in form and some of their behavior, they’re never named and in fact are never really talked about at length other than where appropriate as characters are trying to hash out strategies for dealing with them. Overall, the economy of writing in the film is quite impressive. Especially considering this is a kids film where normally you can expect a boat load of over-exposition to the bench seats.
The frame level glimpses of the fishsticks are used to good effect. A fin here or a flipper there. They let it build at a gradual, but satisfying clip.
I really appreciate that the filmmakers went for scares over show-n-tell with their monster action. These types of films tend to play down the horror aspect to keep from over stimulating the youngens. They still avoid outright gore and on-screen deaths, but they don’t shy away from taking out important characters in dramatic ways.
With its effect creature designs; simple yet solid story and plot progression; great acting, especially by the principles, Danny’s Doomsday is a film that should you get the chance — check it out. The younger audience will love it in particular, but the adults in the audience won’t feel like they wasted an hour of their lives. The scares are fairly predictable for those seasoned watchers, but not cheap scares by any sense. It’s worth the investment.
Look out for this one.