Greetings from the Underground!
Demons. They have always been a staple in the horror genre. While many of the films in the demonic horror category feel very similar, occasionally you will come across a film that tries to do something different. This is the case with Director Brandon Slagle’s new project, The Dawn. The Dawn is a story about a young woman named Rose who lives at a convent. She had been sent to live there after her father killed her entire family upon returning home from World War I. The demons that plagued her father soon emerge again, awakening the nightmares of her past.
The Dawn is a dark, slow-burn horror thriller that grabbed my attention and held it for the whole movie. I went into the film “cold” and was pleasantly surprised to find that it was a period piece set just after WWI. I am a sucker for period horror films, especially when they do a good job of convincingly putting you in that time period. Director Brandon Slagle does just that, from the costuming to the set pieces to the dialog. In the beginning, Slagle keeps you guessing about if Rose’s dad is experiencing actual demonic possession or if it is possibly PTSD. Many think of PTSD as a modern condition so it was refreshing to see it explored here.
Devanny Pinn puts in a strong performance as adult Rose. You feel her conflict, pain, and fear as she suffers from increasingly frightening nightmares while also questioning her faith. Pinn helps sell Rose’s descent into madness as the line between her reality and nightmares blur. Slagle continues the idea for demons versus trauma through Rose. You are kept wondering for most of the film whether Rose is actually being tormented by external demons or if it is just her internal ones caused by seeing the horrific demise of her family. The entire film is told from Rose’s perspective which helps keep the true answer a secret until the very end. The supporting cast of characters were fascinating and engaging. I particularly enjoyed Ryan Kiser’s Jerimiah. He had a great creepy air about him that just unsettled me every time he was on screen.
There are plenty of creepy moments in this film. Slagle doesn’t rely on just making the audience jump to deliver the scares. He also uses a wide variety of horror tools including sound design, camera work and creative editing. The special effects looked sharp and when there is major action it is intense. The only thing about the production I would have liked to have been different was the score. It did get a little repetitive at times but does not take away from the overall experience of the film.
The Dawn is as much of an exploration into the effects of trauma on a person as it is a supernatural thriller. The ending helps answer the questions that are brought up during the film about Rose and her father. The last minutes of this film really surprised me and gave me an entirely different perspective on what I had just experienced. If you are looking for an action filled, creative kills sort of horror film then The Dawn is not for you. But if you like a slow-burn, makes your skin crawl, and keeps you guessing type of horror then you should check out The Dawn.
The Dawn was released in select theaters, digital and on-demand on January 10th, 2020.