Dead Before Dawn

By Jorge Figueiredo - October 30th, 2013


I have been fairly disappointed with a lot of horror movies as of late. None of them really seem to have the magic formula that would allow me to feel scared. I watch trailer after trailer and have found that the trailers are scarier than the films themselves. Of course, April Mullen’s Dead Before Dawn does not have a scary trailer at all, and the film itself isn’t really scary in the slightest (nor will it be winning any Oscars). But it’s cheese spread with cut cheddar on a cheese bun – slightly grilled. That is, it’s a cheesy movie – but enjoyably cheesy for the most part.

The film is about Casper Galloway (played by Devon Bostick), an angsty teen who lives with his single mom, and he is neither popular in school nor particularly happy with his situation. He has confided in his best friend, Becky Fords (April Mullen) that he has a huge crush on Charlotte Baker (Martha MacIsaac), but he doesn’t really feel like vying for her affections due to the fact that she has a brutish, not-so-charming (and unappreciative) boyfriend named Patrick Bishop (Kyle Schmid). Casper’s life is further complicated by his Grandfather, Horus Galloway (Christopher Lloyd), owner of a magic shop called Occult Barn. Horus has just won a lifetime achievement award and phones Casper to ask if he can mind the shop while he’s away at the ceremony. Panic-stricken (because he experienced a trauma at his grandfather’s shop when he was a child: his father died in that very store under mysterious circumstances), Casper initially refuses; but he eventually gives in. Excited for his trophy, Horus gives Casper a very important directive before leaving to the celebration: do not, under any circumstances, touch a mysterious sacred urn that sits on one of the top shelves (that particular sacred urn was instrumental in the demise of Casper’s father – and is the cause of the aforementioned trauma) – for it is cursed. At this point, it’s pretty obvious what’s going to happen.

Yes, people. There is one “Great Scott” uttered in this movie!

Charlotte and her cheerleader friend Luck Winthrop (Brittany Allen) drop by the shop – and are eventually joined by the rest of the small posse of friends. Charlotte really wants to see the urn, but Casper is unwilling to fulfill her request, which leads the others to make fun of him. Charlotte seems disappointed, and Casper notices this; wanting to impress her, he takes it down off of the shelf and it ends up breaking, releasing the evil within. While Casper believes in the curse, the rest of his friends do not, and each go their separate ways, not suspecting the horror that will overtake them at 10 PM that night when the curse takes hold of their world.

The curse that is released is absolutely ridiculous (which makes it all the more amusing): if anyone present at the breaking of the urn makes eye contact with someone who wasn’t there, the person that they make eye contact with will immediately kill themselves and turn into a zombified demon (AKA: Zemon); Zemons can kill if they give their victims a hickey, but they can be enslaved if someone makes out with them first. You can imagine that each of the members of the group ends up making eye contact with at least a few people (and think of the fact that two of them are at a crowded football game). And so, our friends have to figure out how to eject the curse before dawn breaks – with nothing more than household objects for weapons and a beat-up Winnebago for a ride. You know – standard fare.

Something is not a pretty sight.

To call this film over-the-top seems appropriate, as it essentially plays on all of the tropes of the normally serious genre in a humorous way. I don’t think that I have ever watched a film that was engineered so specifically to be a cult film – at least not to this degree. Sometimes it works really well, as a lot of the groundwork for the humour has been already been laid out in other films and in popular culture. At other times, though, it does not work so well, and it eats away at the momentum of the film. Some of the characters in particular really bugged me. While Bostick’s portrayal of Casper is awkward and geeky, it is done in a way that is effective in getting the audience to like the character. Tim Dorion’s character Seth Munday, on the other hand, with his distracting antics, is nothing short of annoying (which is surprising as he co-wrote the script). Oddness aside, the film is kind of fun and flows nicely over the time that it takes to watch it.

Overall, the film is something of a fun romp that resonates with a home-grown vibe. Kudos to April Mullen for creating something outside of the usual process and giving the Niagara region some love by using it as her filming location. While there is gore and violence in the film, it is somewhat cartoonish, and lacks the edge to limit who may want to watch this. Again, the movie is a cheesy romp (and not everyone’s cup of tea) – but if you can get over some of the annoyances, you’ll probably enjoy it at least once. Now, just to let you know, the original title for this film is Dead Before Dawn 3D (I watched the 2D version). If you want to check it out (and support some Canucklehead talent), Cineplex is running this film for one night only – tonight! Click here to find out more!

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