Keeping up with the theme of exorcisms this week, I finally got the chance to check out THE DAWN - written by Brandon Slagle and Elliot Diviney, and directed by Slagle. It's a dark, subtly twisted film that spends the majority of its time in a convent surrounded by nuns and priests; you know a movie is going to be worth your time when it has possessed nuns, and The Dawn happily delivers. What it also delivers is an ending you absolutely will not see coming, and it's one that definitely nods its head to a horror great. The Dawn was an unexpected gem I stumbled upon on video on demand, and I was pleasantly surprised at just how excellently executed the CGI and special effects in the film were utilized; nothing looks super cheesy or over the top, everything looks great, doesn't feel overproduced or cheap, and it's definitely one film that does its effects right. If you're in the mood for a slick little modern day horror this weekend, The Dawn would make a great stay-in movie night!
There's a lot going on in the film, but at the same time, there's really not; The Dawn follows the story of the beautiful Rose (played by Devanny Pinn, who also produced the film!) in 1920s Pennsylvania who - as a child - watched her father slaughter her family in the midst of a (what's believed to be) PTSD-driven rage. As the only one left of her family, the police try to prevent her from having to go to an orphanage, so they instead have her placed in the care of a small group of nuns at a convent. Here, she has a better upbringing surrounded by religion and love, than if she were to be sent to an orphanage. The film skips ahead ten years, and now Rose is just about ready to pledge her life to the church by becoming a nun herself. There's a hesitation in her voice, however - and dreams that continue to haunt her as the days go on. Dreams that plague her down to her core, and that begin to blend the realms of fantasy and reality for Rose. It isn't long until you realize Rose is being plagued by the same demons that haunted her father, and the film goes dark thereafter. Her dreaded past rears its ugly head as it damns her to the same fate as her father.
My biggest fear about this film is someone not exercising patience when it comes to letting The Dawn gets its story off the ground; I wouldn't exactly say its a slow burn opening, but the action many horror fans will be waiting for doesn't really kick in until the second half of the film. But it's first half is so essential to the storyline that it has to take its time, it's only setting itself up for the madness that is trailing closely behind. So as I recommend this movie, just trust in me - enjoy the easy introduction, but you're about to be blasted on a dark descent into madness in the second half, where you'll be questioning what's real and what's fantasy! A little bit of patience will going a long way with this one, I promise!
The majority of on-screen time is shared between Devanny Pinn and Stacey Dash who plays fellow nun-to-be Sister Ella, but Father Theodore (David Goryl) and grounds worker Jeremiah (Ryan Kiser, who's no stranger to horror) also share a fair amount of time on the big screen. Rose and Sister Ella have this really weird tension between the two of them throughout the movie which can get uncomfortable, and while most of their scenes together are just dialogue, both performances are pretty sweet. Pinn is definitely the star of the show, however - everything from her facial expressions to the sinister exorcism and dream scenes just screams terror! I was definitely pleasantly surprised at just how good Pinn's performance is as the lead in the film. David Goryl's portrayal of the priest is definitely a good time, however: he comes across as more of the funner, witty style of priest as opposed to the stern, miserable persona you see portrayed in many films. But it's Jeremiah that just comes across as a total wack-a-doodle in every scene he's in; definitely get some creep vibes, some psycho vibes, and maybe even some egomaniac vibes. But his role, as you'll soon find out, really ties the film together and helps with the conclusion, and it's pretty awesome, not gonna lie.
From spewing insects from her mouth to dreaded body twitching to hallucinations and statues that cry blood, everything looked really amazing in the film. Like I said, nothing looked over-the-top and cheesy, everything was tastefully done and the film isn't totally smothered in effects. Admittedly, The Dawn doesn't really have any effects we haven't seen before over the course of horrors history, but its usage of having it work so professionally into the storyline definitely earns it some points. What I mean is that everything's done for a reason, you're not just getting a flashy show of effects to try and wow you. I think that's a part of the reason it works so damn well for the film. Mix all of that into the seriously epic architecture you'll find in the movie (the inside of the church is beautiful, and this is coming from a guy who runs a site called Soulless) and The Dawn is an excellent adventure into a family's dark history, and paying the price for the sins of our fathers. The Dawn will satisfy many horror-themed cravings you may have, so I've gotta recommend it and commend it for its creativity, execution, and quality. It was worth the $6.99 rental price I paid, and I think you'll agree as long as you know your patience will be rewarded in the end. Check it out now, available on video on demand services as well as some theaters nationwide!