Thursday, November 8, 2012

Chiller Classics Presents: Just Before Dawn

Welcome my friends to the debut review for Chiller Classics, where my associate Mr. Boonsweet and I take you on a trip to the olden days of horror.  We hope to introduce some of you to the horror flicks you may not have heard of, either because of how old they are or how obscure, and educate you about horror's history.  And for those of you who are already well versed in the "good old days" of horror, hopefully this will help bring back some nostalgic memories and maybe entice you to see some of these classics again. 

To begin this new series, I take you back to 1981, where the slasher genre has really gained a foothold in the world of cinema thanks to previous releases like Halloween, Friday the 13th, Maniac, and many others.  Today I review Just Before Dawn.  This flick uses the "friends camping in the woods, gets picked off by a insane killer" formula, a formula used many times over the decades and is still an effective means when used properly.  And boy does it not waste any time, as the first kill happens around the five and a half minute mark, when an unfortunate hunter get the business end of a blade in a particularly painful place.  I know, getting stabbed anywhere will hurt a lot, but this one seems like it would be especially painful.  Luckily, his friend manages to escape before he meets a similar fate.

Enter the happy-go-lucky campers, one of whom happens to own a piece of land up in the mountains.  And what better way to enjoy said land than to bring some friends to camp there and make the standard merry.  Along the way they run into a forest ranger (played by George Kennedy) who tries to warn them away from the mountains.  Of course, it wouldn't be much of a movie if the campers actually listened to him, so naturally they ignore his warning and continue on their way.  Before they make it to their destination they run into (not literally) the surviving hunter from the beginning, who begs them to take him along.  Unfortunately, the hunter tells them that demons are after him, so instead of taking him they leave him a sandwich and continue on.  From here on in it's the (nowadays) standard fare; camp is set up, the campers enjoy their time, and one by one they get picked off by the killer.  But this movie is not without it's moments.  For example, despite seeing who is doing the killing pretty much right away, there's a certain aspect of the protagonist you don't see until about two-thirds of the way into it, although there are a couple of hints in the movie.  Also, the last kill in the movie is brutal, and one that I must say I never really saw before, and I've seen a LOT of different kills over the years.

So, the positives: to start, the scenery is just beautiful.  This is a flick that was made for blu-ray.  I too would be hard pressed to listen to a forest ranger's warnings if I was to camp in such a place.  While some of the kills are nothing special, there are a couple of exceptions that I enjoyed, such as the last kill I previously mentioned.  And the effects and stunt work (what little stunts there were) are also pretty decent.  The acting, while not great in some parts, was overall still decent.  George Kennedy did a fine performance, as well as Gregg Henry (although my favorite performance by Henry is still the somewhat over-the-top Mayor Jack MacReady in Slither).

There's not a whole lot to say in terms of negatives.  Most complaints are basically the other side of the coin with some of the acting and a couple of basic kills.  There are a couple of points also where they seem a little confused about whether its daytime or nighttime.  The protagonist is nothing too special, and there's a family living in the woods, who ultimately offer little to the advancement of the story.  If they weren't in it, I'm pretty sure the movie would have been just fine. 

All in all, this flick is one I recommend you check out.  While not the cream of the crop, it's still an entertaining watch.  And in my opinion, it makes a good opening entry to Chiller Classics.

Movie rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars
Chiller Classic rating: 4 out of 5 stars

- K.K. Bucklesworth, feeling fine. 

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