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Published by David Carter on 2011/8/3 (1421 reads)
Directed by GREGG HOLTGREWE
Review by MARTIN BOUCHER
Released by Breaking Glass Pictures
Running Time: 81 minutes
Color format: Color
Audio/Subtitles: English Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo /No Subtitles
Region Code: 1, NTSC
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
16:9 Enhanced: Yes
Special Features: Writer/Director Commentary; Cast Audio Commentary; One Hour Behind-The-Scenes Featurette With Exclusive Interviews; Deleted Footage
Trailer Online: Yes
It takes exactly 25 minutes for the tension to really hit the fan in the must-see low-budgeter DAWNING, directed and co-scripted by newcomer Gregg Holtgrewe. Before that, time is spent mostly on character development, which is a good thing since trying to figure out who’s who in the film is quite a challenge at first; but not for long. Before you really begin to scratch your head in puzzlement, everyone’s identity is settled, and the next 75 odd minutes are a breeze with frightening moments nonnegotiable. Because, yes, DAWNING is one of those little films that seems harmless at first but slams dunk when least expected.
The plot revolves around a dysfunctional family who gather for the weekend in a solitary log cabin. Everyone there is in need of Dr. Phil but fortunately chooses to keep it in the family. We have the son who’d rather face life baked than confront his estranged dad. We have the father who’d rather succumb to his drinking problem than face reality. Then there’s little sis, who’d rather roll her eyes at her dad’s new wife than accept her. That leaves the step-mom who’d just kill (no pun intended) to get along with everyone but hardly does, since she has a nasty habit of saying things she doesn’t really mean. Call it Tourette’s syndrome, but the truth is more complicated than that. You see, a voice-over using her tone of voice (and sometimes switching to others’ in the room) seems to materialize whenever, which is mostly during a heated discussion or a heartfelt revelation… And to make matters worse, when a bruised fellow bursts in unannounced and kidnaps the clan, he claims something is out there, waiting. Is it really true, or is he, as dad says, just plain crazy?
In between periods of psychological suspense and drama, DAWNING calls for some eerie chills, and given in little doze, they work aplenty, thanks to the helpful eye of Holtgrewe whose hand-held camera does most of the job. The feature is filmed digitally, meaning (for those still clueless) it has the appearance of being shot on video with a better picture and sound quality, but compared to the high-tech usage of today the result is still quite average-looking. However, let it be said that it does not discourage anyone from enjoying the film to its full capacity. In fact it even elevates its love factor, since it adds an ‘80s flair to it, rarely seen in the genre nowadays.
Of course, if you’re looking for the ultimate bloodshed, DAWNING is probably not your cup of tea. Though you’ll miss on something quite unique here. Rarely does a film succeed in catching viewers attention like this one does. Ok, perhaps the thunderstorm raging outside yours truly’s window at the time had something to do with it, but, still, DAWNING is most definitely an effective supernatural yarn. The last fifteen minutes are insane. They play with your mind, and then some. It succeeds in every aspects in scaring the bejesus out of you. The one regret this viewer has is not having had the chance to see it on the big screen, because it certainly deserves the spot. But if PARANORMAL ACTIVITY got there somehow, perhaps DAWNING will too, or another one of Gregg Holtgrewe’s future movies.
Suffice to say, all involved in this film are quite impressive, from the actors to the technical crew. They all deserve a big shout out for having created one of the best indies to come out of the woodwork in the last decade. Omitted on this screener copy are all the extra features Breaking Glass Pictures promises. For once, it would have been as pleasant to review them. But hey, it happens. In the meantime, run, don’t walk, and grab a copy of DAWNING. This one is a keeper, people.
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