Tuesday, June 28, 2011

New Release Review : Dawning



Dawning follows brother and sister Chris and Aurora as they travel to visit their father and stepmom at the family cabin. As the first night unfolds with uncomfortable small talk and tension, tragedy strikes when the beloved family dog is found mortally wounded. Almost immediately, a crazed, blood-soaked stranger barges into the cabin and tells the family that he has come to save them ... but from what? Though their unwanted guest may just be a lone maniac, menacing noises outside suggest the presence of something far more frightening. It's not long before the family realizes a dark force is at play - one that wants them all dead by the dawning of the day.

After hearing pretty much nothing but positive praise across the board from my fellow horror bloggers on this one, I was quite excited to sit down tonight and check it out, on the official day of its DVD release. I guess i'm in the minority here, because I just didn't get the appeal of the flick.

Dawning is a small and intimate film that explores the nature of fear and the tensions between a disjointed family moreso than it focuses on the horror elements that one might expect from it. That's all good and well and I actually love movies that look inwards rather than outwards for their scares and tension. In fact, I was fairly sucked into the movie for the first 45 minutes or so, intrigued by the family dynamic while wondering and waiting to find out what exactly was causing all the strange events in the film. Unfortunately, as was quickly becoming clear to me as it progressed, it just goes nowhere and ultimately amounts to nothing more than an eye roller by the time the end credits scroll across the screen, making you feel like you just wasted 80 minutes of your time. Don't get me wrong, I totally get what the filmmakers were going for with the whole thing, but I just didn't feel like the idea was fleshed out or really pulled off effectively. In fact, by around the halfway mark I was just hoping some flesh hungry monsters would jump out of the woods and brutally tear apart the entire cast, thus ending the whole pretentious mystery of an ordeal. Not exactly the kind of feeling a dramatically based film like this hopes its audience will feel, but I couldn't help but feel it.

To me, Dawning is one of those horror movies that almost comes off as thinking it's better than other horror movies. One that feels it's deep enough and with a strong enough message that it can rise above its small budget and limited space to be a more effective horror film than the higher budgeted ones that rely on things like gore, jump scares, action and oodles of musical cues that dictate when you should be scared and when you should feel certain emotions. Some films pull that whole less is more thing off incredibly well and I for one greatly respect and admire those movies that do or, in this case, even merely try to. So it's not that I didn't get it or that i'm only into movies with monsters and tons of bloodshed, it's simply that Dawning just didn't do anything for me. I hate to say it, but i'm kinda feeling like a lot of the love that's been thrown its way is largely from folks who just hate big studio horror and want desperately to love all things indie and different, thus making them heap over-inflated praise on films such as this one. I'm all about indie horror too, but it doesn't mean every little low budget indie flick is a diamond in the rough ...


Oh well, at least I was highly amused throughout the 80 minute runtime over the fact that the lead actress, Najarra Townsend, bears quite a striking resemblance to Jen from certain angles, which provided for some laughs. It also got me off the hook for being sexually attracted to a chick from a horror movie for once!


Planet of Terror said...

Thanks for checking it out Johnny. I must respectfully disagree. Even though a big payoff never really came, the amibiguity of it is what really stuck with me. And subsequent viewings had me catching onto the dialogue which made me think 'Did they actually say that or was it a reflection of the character's internal strife which ultimately, led to their undoing and demise?' For me, it was refreshing and not just because of the fact it was different than most main streamed released fare. It was film that reminded me that there is no greater fear than the one you make up in your own mind.

Again, thanks for checking it out. I'm actually debating this film with the esteemed Mr. McHargue as he feels the same as you. Should be good times :)

Anonymous said...

Jen is much more gorgeous than Najarra.