In lush upstate New York, a wealthy Swiss couple is trying to distract themselves from the pressures of becoming new parents. They hit up a hitchhiker for directions and he reels them into a hustle that turns dangerous. Daylight is a caper full of lechery and unforced twists with strong characters and no pretense. The hoards attending will feel their neck hairs rise as they watch the undoing of evildoers—whoever those might be. Box office will be good for this small but mighty conversation starter.
Despite the fact Daniel (Aidan Redmond) roams the streets of suburban New York in a sleek Maserati, it's Irene's (Alexandra Meierhans) deep-pocketed dad that funds their jet setting. Daniel's about to deliver apologies to his in-laws for a miscarried deal that lost him a loan from Dad; Irene's getting ready to deliver the couple's first child. A fateful wrong turn and the family-to-be is drifting through nondescript, leafy dirt roads. After Irene curses Daniel for driving without her map, he pulls over to ask a young man named Renny (Michael Godere) where to go. Renny's pining for a lift. Main road? He just happens to be going that way, too.
So the lost out-of-towners take a shot and add another party to their mix. Trouble is, Renny's pretty handy with the butterfly knife and when Irene's neck meets the business end of his blade the bucolic tree-line roads and serene atmosphere with spring birds chirping turns to isolated woods and cackling winged evil. Their last breath could be any moment.
Renny's pal Leo (Ivan Martin) comes into play a few miles down the road and kicks Daniel out of the driver's seat so he can drive to the rendezvous point. Problem is Leo can't drive stick. So he has to give the car back to his prisoner and lick his wounds.
More of this Keystone criminal stuff plays to perfection in the narrative. Renny keeps offering Irene a turkey sandwich inside the car just as her husband is about to get his throat slashed by a lake. At one point the kidnappers leave their pregnant prisoner in her attic bedroom, free to scribble an SOS on bed sheets and steal away while the duo rests off a booze and spar match in anticipation of their big payday. The twirpy perps also invest poorly in a two-bit thug named Murph (Brian Bickerstaff) to pull off the shakedown of Irene's moneybags dad.
So much is left for us to wonder about and the gaps are golden. At one point in Irene's captivity you hear sirens and see a fade to white; there's no certainty those sirens belong to rescuing cops or fire trucks en route to other houses. The speed of editing is sometimes break-neck and deliberately open-ended. Are these bozos going to off a pregnant woman? Or cut and run? And when power swings from the captors to the captive the surreal takes over and the story combusts into something almost otherworldly. It's a must see.
Distributor: Cinema Purgatorio
Cast: Alexandra Meierhans, Michael Godere, Ivan Martin, Aidan Redmond, Brian Bickerstaff
Director: David Barker
Screenwriters: David Barker, Michael Godere, Alexandra Meierhans
Producers: Ben Howe, Lars Knudsen, Jay Van Hoy
Running time: 74 min.
Release date: July 8 ltd.