The Hours Till Daylight (USA, 2015)
Dir: Jon Garcia
Starring: Quinn Allan, Vannessa Vasquez, Carlos Sepulveda
Plot: Marco (Allan) has grown up with a fear of the dark. Despite the best efforts of his parents, he has never been able to shake the fear, or more specifically of what hides in the darkness. About to become a parent himself, Marco takes action to face up to the demon that plagues him, for the sake of his family.
Director Jon Garcia has a number of films under his belt, but The Hours Till Daylight is his first attempt at the horror genre. He’s taking a stab at the haunting sub-genre that has remained in vogue since Paranormal Activity. Can Garcia’s film stand out amongst all the Insidiouses, Ouijas, and Conjurings?
The first thing that stands out for The Hours Till Daylight is the casting. This is not a white Hollywood film. It focuses on a Latin American family, their community, and their beliefs when it comes to the supernatural. A mixture of superstition and Catholic upbringing. Based on Garcia’s previous films, his faith is an important influence on his work. While many films throw in some religious elements to commit to genre tropes, the demons, the exorcist priest, it feels like Garcia is much more aware of the religious significance of the imagery he is using.
Garcia uses childhood fears and religious demons, and builds up the fear slowly. The choice of score keeps the atmosphere tense as he establishes his characters, setting the stakes that Marco is fighting for. The film also uses a lot of flashbacks to Marco’s childhood, and you can feel in these scenes that it’s not just a literal demon that Marco is combating. His fear of the dark as a child is met with the frustration of his parents. They just want him to grow out of it.
With films like The Babadook championing subtext in monsters, The Hours Till Daylight joins the trend. Marco’s battle with his demon seems to be a battle with himself, to become an adult that can raise a child. This demon that is his insecurities, that he isn’t good enough.
With this singular subtextual motivation, the film builds towards it’s final goal. At times this can be painfully slow, however the film makes up for it with a big set piece ending. The banishment ritual. It’s an impressive scene, although some of the demon effects are a little cheap looking but that’s fine for a low budget film. They’re not over-used. There’s some less than subtle religious imagery that made it feel a little preachy but otherwise it promotes positivity, that we can fight our demons.
While there are some moments in the film that I felt were a little dull, it’s something a little different. It feels a lot more personal than the usual blockbuster horror in the cinema. It’s not full of jump scares and there’s no franchise-able monster. It’s just a creepy haunting story. That’s what will make The Hours Till Daylight stand out from the rest.