Within the last ten years, I’ve begun to realize that I’m a fan of period pieces, especially within the horror genre. Give me something tied to war and bring some supernatural elements into it and I’m game. Overlord was a pretty good example of that and although that movie’s plot fell a bit flat for me, it still kept me on the edge of my seat with its high levels of tension. The Witch is another fantastic example of an exemplary period piece that scared the hell out of me. That said, when I was offered the opportunity to check out THE DAWN, another horror period-piece, I was pretty eager to see how it would play out.
THE DAWN, directed by Brandon Slagle, takes place post World War I and centers around a young woman who’s family dies at the hands of her psychologically damaged father. After the woman is sent to live at a convent she realizes that nothing is as it seems as the evil that plagued her father follows her here.
I’ve never truly been religious. I primarily believe in Karma and self-worship and I know that’s not for everybody. Religion has always been something that has made me uncomfortable. I’ve had countless discussions with people trying to push their beliefs on me and my argument never changes. One point I always make is that organized religion scares me. Convents, nuns, priests, they all freak me out a bit. Because of this, movies like Amityville Horror and The Exorcist used to scare the living crap out of me. Going into THE DAWN knowing the film centered around a convent and a young nun had me in eager anticipation to be scared.
THE DAWN introduces us to a young woman named Rose (Devanny Pinn) who, after suffering a tragedy, moves to a convent. The film takes place ten years later, after the murder of her family, as Rose considers taking her “final vows” at the convent. Because of the aforementioned tragedy, she suffers nightmares, flashbacks, and visions. One recurring vision she has throughout the film is of her being exorcised while in a demonic state. We also find out that she’s frequently cold and there’s mention in the film that hell is cold which I found interesting because I had never actually heard that before.
I mentioned earlier the names of two specific films: The Exorcist and The Amityville Horror. There are a lot of similarities between those films and THE DAWN. Though obviously inspired by those films, THE DAWN takes elements of those films and makes them it’s own. The obvious massacre at the beginning of the film and the demonic references are easy to see; however, the similarities I saw the most were of Rose’s growing downfall. She’s hearing voices, she’s slipping from reality, and she’s second-guessing her faith. This is where the film really shines for me. Rose is portrayed by actress Devanny Pinn who delivers a believable course of self-doubt and mental illness.
I think my biggest gripe with this movie was the kills. The scenes leading up to each kill had a build-up that ended up being lackluster for the viewer. There was a lot of potential for some gnarly death scenes, especially considering the plot circumstances, but it failed to deliver. For the most part, the kills were off-screen and pretty quick. I think there was initially potential for some shock value but alas, I felt unsatisfied in this area of the film.
That being said, watching THE DAWN was a tension-filled experience from start to finish. Within an hour and a half, the film is slathered in an ominous vibe that keeps you on the edge of your seat. You’ll want to see it through till the end and trust me, you don’t want to miss it. I’d recommend THE DAWN to any casual horror viewer and even die-hard horror fanatics. It’s not your run of the mill possession movie so if you have the opportunity to check this movie out, do yourself the favor. THE DAWN is now in theaters and available on digital and On-Demand.