Movie Review: ‘Dead By Dawn’

Review by Bradley Smith

A suicidal man in a remote cabin finds himself on the opposite side of three brutal killers when a kidnapped woman arrives on his doorstep in need of help. The pair of protagonists are likeable enough to make the audience care about their survival while the three (or four, depending on your view of the boyfriend) antagonists are the exact opposite invoking no sympathy and disdain. The plot and storyline make for a straight-forward home invasion story (that throws in some less comedic traps reminiscent of Home Alone) as the duo fight to survive until Dawn.

Lulu (Drew Lindsey Mitchell in her first full length film) leaves her abusive boyfriend to go to her uncle’s house for a costume party. She orders a Kart (a fictional Uber/Lyft style ride share company) and gets a ride from a creepy clown, who is even more creepy than he appears. Cut to Dylan (Kelcey Watson), the suicidal man who is seconds away from ending his life when Lulu arrives on his doorstep, beaten and bloody. Dylan has a tragic backstory (that is revealed later) but gets a new lease on life when he agrees to protect Lulu.

The three main villains of the movie, Neil (Bo Burroughs), Chad (Timothy Muskatell), and Snack (horror icon Jamie Bernadette) are (presumably intentionally) horrific stereotypes of some of the worst humanity has to offer. They each have their own creepy personas and motivations, limited backstories, and no redeeming qualities which makes them near perfect antagonists to root against. Somehow, Lulu’s boyfriend Shane (Bobby Slaski) gets briefly caught up in the middle of their battle as the movie tries to add some tension and additional plot by threatening his life, even though he was not at all likeable in his earlier scene. Spoiler, he got no sympathy from me when his second scene ended quickly.

For a horror/thriller, it delivers essentially what it promises. There is tension, darkness, and a fair mix of cheesiness and seriousness. There is a body count somewhere between one and ten (would not want to spoil everything); at least one death is brutal, and it is something worth… seeing (this one that I am spiritedly referencing is really the only memorable death a day or two after watching the movie; likely not a great note for the filmmakers). The ending is typical of the horror genre. Special effects are commendable and at times cringeworthy. Overall, it was a modest horror movie with some chills and one or two poignant moments (i.e. Dylan’s backstory). This is director Sean Cain’s best film… that I have seen, maybe someday I will check out his other work.

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