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Review: DEAD BY DAWN (2020)

In the opening act of Dead By Dawn, Lulu (Drew Lindsey Mitchell) is having a really horrible day. Her boyfriend Shane (Bobby Slaski) has found out she’s planning to go back to college and finish her degree. This pisses him off to the point he becomes violent. She leaves for a Halloween party hosted by her Uncle Chad (Timothy Muskatell, Deadgirl, The Chair). Her rideshare driver is a clown painted pervert. The next thing we see she’s bloody and screaming for help on the porch of a forest cabin belonging to Dylan (Kelcey Watson, Cowboys Vs Dinosaurs, Eruption LA).

It doesn’t take long for there to be a knock on his door. Neil (Bo Burroughs, Virus X) with Chad in tow is there claiming Lulu is autistic and was hurt in a car accident. His suspicions are triggered and then confirmed when he notices Snack (Jamie Bernadette, The Bone Box, Face Of Evil) sneaking across his patio. He’s still carrying the gun he was about to blow his brains out with, and that backs them off for the moment.

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It seems the party was a setup and Chad had been grooming her. She was repeatedly raped, beaten and barely escaped with her life. Now, these three will do anything to get her back before she can go to the police.

In Dead By Dawn, writer Wes Laurie (Breath Of Hate, The Last House) and director Sean Cain (Terror Birds, Jurassic City) serve up a siege/home invasion film that has a few twists but doesn’t try to re-invent the genre. I liked that the plans for booby-trapping the cabin came from a zombie defence guide written by Dylan’s now-deceased young daughter. On the other hand, Lulu’s concern for Shane’s fate when he reappears late in the film was puzzling.

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It was also a nice change of pace to see Jamie Bernadette as one of the villains. Dead By Dawn may be the first time she has played one, actually. She makes a good companion to the psychopathic Neil. The determined demeanour she’s used to play countless final girls is flipped here to let her become an ice-cold killer.

Despite hyping the fact that Dylan is suicidal in the press release, not much is done with the idea in the film. The idea of a man who wants to die being forced to fight for his life to protect somebody else has a lot of potential. Sadly, Dead By Dawn lets it go to waste.

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Despite that, Dead By Dawn does deliver. There’s enough suspense built up to make the final attack on the cabin work. And the attack itself comes off quite nicely, with some nice traps and a solid final showdown. I certainly wasn’t disappointed with the film’s resolution.

Uncork’d Entertainment will release Dead By Dawn on DVD and Digital April 7th. Check its Facebook page for more details.

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