I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.
Preston Barta // Editor
From the living dead to the walking dead, our fascination with zombies has completely infiltrated 21st century culture. What was once a small genre has developed into something that has infected cinephiles and has given us frightening scenarios to explore.
While there may be more zombie material out there than one can handle — with popular TV series such as THE WALKING DEAD and FEAR THE WALKING DEAD taking over our Sunday nights — the industry still finds a way to put its own creative spin on the genre.
Director William Kaufman (THE HIT LIST), who studied at the University of North Texas and started his career working in the special effects department, takes the genre to new heights by giving the undead some actual brains and transforming the streets of Dallas into a post-apocalyptic wasteland.
With its healthy blend of infected biters and gun ammo, Kaufman’s film, DAYLIGHT’S END finds a drifter named Thomas Rourke (Johnny Strong) roaming the desolate roads of Texas. After a firefight with some savage men, Thomas runs across a band of survivors (Chelsea Edmundson, Lance Henriksen and Louis Mandylor, among others) who are in need of assistance defending their fortress and seeking refuge elsewhere.
Kafka plays Earnesta, a trigger-happy fighter who’s willing to do anything to keep her friends and family safe inside the police station they inhabit.
“We shot at the [Dallas Municipal Court] and had a couple days where we blocked off streets, because we did a few shootouts outside,” said Kafka, before detailing some of the film’s production entanglements. “We had some trouble getting a few locations in time, so we had to shut down [production] for a while. Everyone went home and took a good, long break while [Kaufman] tried to figure out how to get the hotel he needed to film one of the film’s big action sequences.”
The scene Kafka mentioned is undoubtedly one of the most pivotal scenes in the movie. The hotel serves as the nesting area for the flesh-eaters, so finding the perfect location was key for Kaufman and the filmmakers.
Luckily after the talents’ schedules aligned and the filmmakers found a hotel in Tyler, production continued until the film wrapped.
“A lot went on during the film’s nearly three-year journey to completion,” Kafka quipped. “Gary Cairns [a human survivor in the film] met his wife and they had a baby. Hakeem Kae-Kazim [another survivor] joined the Starz series BLACK SAILS, among other big things.”
Watching the film with a Dallas crowd at the film festival was an experience to behold. The tense moments and chilling scares effortlessly got festivalgoers’ energy to high levels and invested in the characters’ arcs. But when a movie requires the expected frights that come with the genre, do the actors have the capacity to be scared of their own film?
There are indeed tense moments and chilling scares woven into the narrative. But when a movie requires the expected frights that come with the genre, do the actors have the capacity to be scared of their own film?
“There are some jump scares that get you, but normally I don’t feel afraid when I watch my films,” said Kafka. “When you’re in the moment and someone is attacking you, you’re having to think about a lot of things: timing, how I’m supposed to fall, and where I had to land so the camera can capture me in frame.”
Kafka described her fight scene in the film as a “dance.” When Kaufman would call action, it’s a process of remembering where you need to step and move at all times.
“Anything can happen between action and cut, however,” said Kafka. “While I know we’re acting, it’s a scary situation to be in during the moment.”
DAYLIGHT’S END will screen at 3 p.m. Sunday during Texas Frightmare Weekend at Hyatt Regency DFW, 2334 N. International Parkway in Dallas. A three-day pass costs $75; single-day passes are $30. For more information, visit www.texasfrightmareweekend.com. Tickets are available at the door.
Feature Photo: Graphic includes the film’s official poster (courtesy of the film) and a still of Heather Kafka (photo taken by Dave Burton).
Previously published on DentonRC.com.