Courtesy Cranked Up

What do you believe and how far are you willing to go to seek it out? That’s one of the questions asked in the new sci-fi cult film COSMIC DAWN, a film written, produced, and directed by Jefferson Moneo.

If you’ve seen movies about cults before, you’d think that Moneo’s cult of alien and UFO believers are the villains of our story, and to a degree, you would be right. But Moneo is not just interested in the conflict between our protagonist Aurora (Camille Rowe) and a crazy cult led by Elyse (Antonia Zegers). Throughout COSMIC DAWN, we get to understand the inner workings of cult life, from the use of code names and schedules to the comradery of eating together and singing karaoke together. Rather than villainous monsters, Moneo has written his characters as people to empathize with, leaving the audience intrigued and interested in cultism rather than horrified by it.

We pick up our story with Aurora as an adult who has nightmares about her mother disappearing after a camping trip in the woods. Self-medicating with drugs and parties, she’s dedicated her life to figuring out what happened to her mother. After walking into a bookstore and being recommended a book by a mysterious author named Elyse, she is slowly introduced into a cult of others who have had extraterrestrial encounters of some kind. Leaving her life behind, she joins their collective home where she is left to question what is real, and if Elyse is a false prophet or the one to guide her back to her mother.

Courtesy Cranked Up Films

To add further mystery to this movie, we are left not knowing when this movie takes place thanks to the wonderful looking cinematography, costuming, soundtrack, and opening titles. Everything contributes to a vague 1970s to early ‘80s aesthetic despite the use of cell phones in the movie, leaving you to wonder when this movie takes place or if it even matters. This movie is rich with vibrant colors and otherworldly displays of cinematography that leaves you wondering what is and isn’t real, or what did or did not happen to Aurora.

But this film wouldn’t work without great performances. Camille Rowe leads this film with ease, never losing her skepticism in character, which only adds to the mystery this film plays off of. Antonia Zeger’s Elyse is both loving and frightening. I believe she is the type of person to command a room, reward those who are obedient, and punish those who aren’t. Her approach is always soft and welcoming, but unnerving with mysterious intentions. Joshua Bruge and Emmanuelle Chriqui also deliver as the young couple Tom and Natalie who live in the cult. Chriqui’s performances of possession and fragility made me want to hug her and comfort her, while Bruge adds dimension to the mystery and skepticism Aurora and the audience will have with the rest of the cult.

I can see some people watching this movie because of its killer soundtrack, mostly filled with original music by MGMT, but it’s Moneo’s vision of belief and curiosity that will keep you watching and questioning the entire 90-minute runtime. COSMIC DAWN is a stellar exploration of what it is like to join and live in a cult, but it’s also a film determined to leave you wondering about your own beliefs and how far you’d go to find the answers you seek.

COSMIC DAWN is in theaters and available On-Demand today.

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