Uneven low-budget zombie drama with unexpected final act
The public’s interest in all things connected with zombies shows little signs of passing away quietly, with micro-budget feature Before Dawn arriving on the heels of the somewhat higher profile Warm Bodies. The common ground is that both attempt to relocate the traditional concept of the dead returning to feast on the living; the twist is that they ignore the larger geo-political action in favour of horror located within everyday human relationships.
Director and star Dominic Brunt and his wife Joanne Mitchell are regular television performers, and they created Before Dawn as a riposte to the clichés of larger budget zombie films. In Before Dawn, they play Alex and Meg, an estranged couple who park their children with Meg’s mother (Eileen O’Brien) before attempting to rekindle their relationship over a long weekend in a remote holiday home. While jogging, Meg is attacked by a marauding zombie, and returns to Alex sporting a wound in the form of a set of teeth-marks, leaving him with a philosophical and emotional dilemma to solve.
Mark Illis’ script wisely avoids any attempt at the global spectacle of the forthcoming World War Z, although it’s not entirely successful at avoiding the clichés of the genre. The portentously slow build-up is likely to deter thrill-seekers, but the meticulous depiction of a failing relationship pays off when the final third of Before Dawn takes an original and rather bleak shift.
Horror has always been the most accessible genre for low-budget filmmakers to find an audience, and Before Dawn deserves some attention for rethinking the scale and emotional context of a conventional horror story. That said, the slow pace and choppy technicalities will deter all but the most hardcore genre fans, although the more determined zombie-philes will find something to sink their teeth into.
Limited release from Fri 22 Feb.