Director: Dominic Brunt
Starring: Dominic Brunt, Joanne Mitchell, Nicky Evans, Eileen O’Brien
Running Time: 82 Minutes
Synopsis: An estranged couple leave their stressful daily lives behind in an attempt to save their troubled relationship but soon find themselves under attack from the walking dead.
Real-life couple Dominic Brunt (making his directorial debut) and Joanne Mitchell (based on her own original story) are Alex and Meg, a couple trying to rekindle their relationship after a breakdown in their marriage (of which I’ll keep under wraps as it’s also pivotal to the plot). Leaving their two children, Peter and Sarah with Grandma, the two set off for a quiet weekend in the British countryside, far away from the outside world in an attempt to patch things up. Unfortunately, there is a spanner thrown into the works as Meg is attacked and bitten by a ghastly-looking individual on her morning run and returns in shock to their rented cottage. What follows is quite harrowing and heartbreaking stuff as Alex comes to realise the Meg he knew and loved, never really returned.
The script (from Mark Illis) and acting from the central duo is natural and superb (being a real-life couple certainly aids their performances) and there is a real depth in character development in the early stages to suggest there is some complexity gnawing away at their love for one another, before things eventually turn nasty. It almost feels like a Shane Meadows or Mike Leigh horror film, in which I mean that despite the initial set-up of the location or story (and not much of note going on), it’s gripping stuff and easily identifiable, which makes for compulsive viewing, as we’re hoping to learn more about their feelings and just why things have gone wrong. It’s this opening build-up that makes what is the come all the more unbearable, which is a compliment, by the way. A short appearance from SHAMELESS star Nicky Evans too, is one that lightens the tension a touch at just the right moment, before cranking it all the way up the eleven when Alex makes an impulsive life-changing decision that he may never have recovered from.
The Zombie-horror sub-genre is not one usually known for their dramatic influence, although if done right they can have their moments (scenes in SHAUN OF THE DEAD when discussing the ‘changing’ of Phillip and Shaun’s Mother spring to mind). George Romero has perhaps always been tagged as the one that brought them to public consciousness and have since evolved into a fast, feral and ferocious beast (even throughout his own groundbreaking efforts). Here, they’re as vicious as they have ever been and it’s damn frightening and unsettling to sit through, especially in such a beautiful, natural and open environment. It’s all the more remarkable considering the micro budget at their disposal, as the gore effects are some of the most simple-yet-realistic and disturbing ever seen in the recent horror genre.
BEFORE DAWN really is an uncomfortable watch and it’s one that will stay with you well after the closing credits (which also hold a lingering, chilling shot). Still, without the careful consideration to the key grounded sensitivity and emotional baggage it may have lacked that powerful absorbing punch, (or should that be bite), which really is tragically-affecting. The stunning music soundtrack (sampled in the trailer below) is truly outstanding, atmospheric and strikes an unbelievable balance of beauty with the alarming sense of threat that speaks volumes of the overall conclusion.
I have to concede to being totally blown away by the most gut-wrentching modern zombie flick in years, which in my view deserves to be seen by as wide an audience as possible. An unforgettable and jaw-dropping shocker!