DAMNED BY DAWN
Reviewed by: Andre Manseau
What's it about
During a violent thunderstorm, a family is awoken by piercing shrieks which summon the dead to rise again. Their lives explode in a blood soaked fury as they battle malevolent spirits, whilst fighting to save their souls from eternal torment with... the Banshee.
Is it good movie?
I've always thought it was a little weird that no horror movie has truly capitalized on the the idea of a Banshee wreaking havoc upon people. Sure, their have been a few, but nothing particularly memorable or well done. This little Aussie indie flick tries to marry Evil Dead with the whole Ozploitation genre, and succeeds somewhat.
This movie might not be expensive, but it definitely doesn't suck. The money is on the screen, for the most part. The comparisons to Evil Dead are somewhat understandable because there is some real borrowing going on here. This movie is drenched in atmosphere and totally nails the 'creepy forest' vibe. There's lots of scary mist and foreboding narration to fill in the viewer and entrench you in the fearful surroundings.
The plot here is pretty well told, focusing on the folklore tale of the Banshee. The movie builds tension slowly and the first appearance of the Banshee is really well done. Claire and her sister really come face to face with the infamous legend while their creepy grandmother warned them ahead of time. The characters are decent enough, with Claire leading the pack as the most well-developed (although that isn't surprising), and the acting is alright.
This movie is not Evil Dead 4, however. While it is a fun horror romp, it suffers from a real lack of meat after the first act or so. There are a few great and memorable moments (The skeleton chase comes to mind), but after that first part things start falling apart. All subtlety is thrown out the window pretty quickly, with lots of goofy 'boo' scares and a true crate full of horror cliches too numerous to mention.
As hard as it tries, Damned by Dawn suffers from some really, really lame CGI that hurts things and I've said it a thousand times but just go practical! Practicality will at least lead me to applaud an effort. Likewise, there's a lot of bad looking digital fog here too. Again, I know that I might be nitpicking but there's a fair amount of this stuff to set things back.
Video / Audio
Video is presented in 1.84:1 widescreen and looks sharp, probably as good as it could look.
Audio comes in Dolby 5.1 and sounds clear and is well mixed.
There's a fun Audio Commentary with writer/director Brett Anstey, producer Luke Gibson, editor Dave Redman, production designer David Jackson, and chief fog wrangler Darren Maxwell. These guys get along well, and have a lot of great info to pass on. Really fun listen.
There's also a Making of featurette that runs almost an hour long and has a ton of great stuff about how the film came to be, how the filmmakers met, the goals they wanted to achieve, the actual filmmaking process (pre-production and post-production), great interviews and funny stories. Another great feature.
Finally, there are trailers for this film, Skyline, Let the Right one In, and the Girl who Kicked the Hornet's nest.
I know that this isn't a perfect film, but it is pretty fun to watch with friends. It won't stand up too well if it's taken seriously or watched alone, but given the right substances and a rainy Saturday evening, this movie could be right up your alley. If it could lose the CGI and gain a bit of a clearer focus, I'm sure this movie could be a 'hey, that was f*cking awesome' deal, rather than a 'Well, that was fun' one, if that makes any sense.