Repost: The Day Time Ended (1980)

Editor’s Note: When this film was included on Mill Creek’s Sci-Fi Invasion set, Dustin Fallon from Horror and Sons gave us his alternate take on the film on November 2, 2020. And when you’re dealing with a Compass International Pictures release and John “Bud” Cardos and Charles Band in one film, well, no way that film is getting by with just one review, as B&S’s leader Sam Panico reviewed it back in 2018. And Mill Creek knows a fun film when they see one, as it is also part of their Excellent Eighties 50-film set that we’re unpacking all this month.

Take it, Dustin!

The Day Time Ended is a 1980 science fiction film released by Compass International Pictures. As I’m sure you know, Compass were also the distributor for John Carpenter’s Halloween in 1978, and producer Charles Band’s Tourist Trap in 1979.  As I’m sure you also know, both of those films are much better remembered than this film, and for a multitude of good reasons.

Band would also serve as the producer of The Day Time Ended, with former stuntman John “Bud” Cardos (The Dark, Kingdom of the Spiders) taking directing duties. Fans of Band’s Empire Pictures and Full Moon Features presentations will undoubtedly notice quite a few regulars among the crew, such as David Schmoeller (director of Tourist Trap and Puppet Master) and Ted Nicolaou (Terrorvision, Subspecies series), as well as Oscar-winning make-up artist Ve Neill!

The Day Time Ended was seemingly produced to cash-in on the still lingering success of Star Wars in 1976, a wave of science fiction hysteria that allowed filmmakers and distributors of the time to drop any genre-related turd upon a presumably unsuspecting, yet still eager audience. If you were a young male during this era, chances are that the presence of spaceships, aliens, laser guns, and other intergalactic trappings was generally all it took to get your butt in the seat.

In The Day Time Ended, a young couple (played by Robert Mitchum’s son, Chris and Marcy Lafferty, who had previously appeared in Kingdom of the Spiders) and their daughter move to the middle of the desert in order to take up residence with the husband’s parents (or, at least I think they are his parents) and younger brother in their solar-powered home that looks far too small for all these people. The elder couple, played by Western star Jim Davis and Peyton Place‘s Dorothy Malone, have seemingly “dropped off the grid”, retreating from the modern world.

As we learn from a radio broadcast playing as the film opens, this move coincides with the occurrence of a triple-supernova. Almost immediately upon arriving at the desert home, the young child, Jenny, finds a strange, glowing structure while tending to a new pony that her grandfather has purchased. She runs off to tell her family, who find themselves distracted by the fact that the house appears to have been ransacked. The structure, about the same size as the horse, disappears before anyone else can see it. Once her family has left her side, believing the young child to be lost in childish fantasy, Jenny again finds the glowing structure, now no bigger than a large sugar cube or game die.

Other strange events begin to occur around little Jenny, but of course, no one takes any notice for an extended period of time. The grandparents soon witness two UFOs that fly over their heads as they walk the property, but think little of the incident other than being a little creeped out. Later that evening, when the family is in their beds, Jenny is visited by a tiny extraterrestrial creature. The mute creature jumps and spins around the room, but soon flees when another alien craft, also quite small, appears in Jenny’s bedroom. The grandmother also has an encounter with one of the small alien creatures.

In time, more alien craft of varying size and shape converge upon the home. The family is unable to flee due to the car acting erratically, and any attempts to call in or out on the phone line are either cut short or garbled with static, thanks to “atmospheric interference”, an “electrical storm”, or whatever you choose to call the electromagnetic disturbance caused by all this alien activity.

The Day Time Ended continues along with all sorts of extraterrestrial shenanigans occurring both within, as well as outside of, the home. Eventually, large monstrous creatures appear outside the house, further preventing any attempts at escape as they fight and maul each other to death. While these early examples of David Allen’s stop-motion work do show the early-stages of his abilities, they undeniably feel dated by today’s standards, and are far from “ideal” demonstrations of the talent that has made him a considerable legend by many and that earned him an Oscar nomination in later years for his work on 1985’s Young Sherlock Holmes. Overall, it’s still a fairly neat sight to behold by those of us still fascinated with cinematic monsters and aliens.

The film’s multiple effects are clearly on showcase here and are the obvious “star” of the film, covering up for (and at times, highlighting) the film’s thread thin and wildly incoherent plot. Sure, there’s some late-night, braindead entertainment to be found here if you aren’t looking for anything too deep or thought-consuming, but even the film’s veteran actors occasionally look bewildered and lost at times.

The Day Time Ended finally reaches its conclusion, only to become even more confusing. Drowning in visual nonsense, the finale presents endless questions with no clear answers given, other than what we interpret them to mean. Honestly, the whole thing just feels tacked on and more than a little rushed.

While I personally enjoy the stop-motion effects on display in The Day Time Ended, they are unfortunately an aspect of the film that many critics trashed upon its release, as well as in the years following. To further exemplify that just maybe I have no clue what I’m talking about, I personally felt that Lafferty wildly over-acted her way through her entire performance as “Beth”, the young mother. However, others clearly must have disagreed with my assessment as she was nominated for “Best Supporting Actress” at 1980’s 7th Annual Saturn Awards, losing to Alien‘s Veronica Cartwright. I can’t imagine there were many other viable competitors.

The Day Time Ended received a blu-ray release from Full Moon Features in early 2019. While the film, as well as Allen’s stop-motion effects, do benefit from a visual upgrade (well, the effects are debatable) thanks to the HD transfer, there’s really little to recommend here if you aren’t already an avid fan of Allen’s work or aren’t into watching painfully dull vintage sci-fi just for the sake of it.

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