Dominic Brunt makes his directorial debut with his low budget, but surprisingly effective take on the zombie genre. Better known for his role as ‘Paddy’ in Emmerdale Farm, some may question his involvement in such a movie, however, ‘Before Dawn’ is no mainstream title and if you delve a little deeper into the man (rather than the character) you will see that his involvement in co-hosting the Leeds Zombie Festival had a clear influence on his involvement - that and the fact his Mrs wrote the script.
‘Before Dawn’ follows in the typical British tradition of setting the zombie outbreak in modern times amidst our everyday lives. This story sees a struggling couple trying to rekindle their marriage by having a weekend away in a remote cottage in the Yorkshire moors. Once there, they soon realise marital issues is the least of their worries, and what follows is a tale with enough twists and turns to keep something which should have been stale before the get go, actually feeling quite fresh.
The most poignant aspect of the movie, even from the first scene, is the sombre atmosphere which never lets up. Right from the start the couple leave their home and begin their trip, we get to see characterisation developing through a range of familiar bickering and spiteful fights. The rekindling does not go well to say the least. This goes on for a good forty-five minutes, and whilst it could be said that some viewers might be put off by the fairly sustained drama, and distinct lack of horror, there is something said for commitment and it certainly gives ‘Before Dawn’ its identity. The acting is good, certainly for the budget, the characters are believable, and the locations do well to support the fact that no matter how far the couple run the problem is simply with them and not with their situation.
This movie is not just about zombies, it’s a harrowing tale of loss, regret, ruts and boring routine which no doubt many families in the UK can relate too. Let us not forget, that whilst many zombie films focus purely on the action (and more recently comedy), the genre at its core has been used by many directors as a medium to deliver quite cutting political and social satire. This is certainly true of ‘Before Dawn’.
That said this movie certainly doesn’t neglect its duties as a horror movie either. It won’t take you long to find a myriad of other reviews all which support the statement that the zombies in this movie look amazing. Not old school-worms-in-the-eye amazing, but brutal animalistic scare-the-shit-out-of-you amazing. The source of the zombies is never explored in this movie, but think 28 days later and you have your style of zombie. They bleed from the mouth, show some damage (no doubt caused by the attack that ‘turned’ them in the first place’) and scream and snarl like you wouldn’t want to hear from a loved one! Because of the budget the movie isn’t teaming with corpses, however effort has clearly been taken to ensure that every encounter leaves its mark, and the tension created is well constructed. Much of the latter part of the movie is certainly brutal enough to justify such a lengthy build up, with several little plot and character twists to ensure it doesn’t drift into monotony.
Overall ‘Before Dawn’ is a strong entry in the genre, and will certainly please fan’s looking for those quirky lesser known movies which clearly have a made-for-fans-by-fans feel. It has a strong script and has clearly been thought through; the dramatization will possibly put some off but rest assured this only makes the brutal scenes seem even nastier when they happen.