Demons at Dawn begins with ChaoFeng Mei (Crystal J. Huang, Bermuda Island, SARS-29) bribing a guard to let her and her muscle work over Jed (Michael Della Pia, Night of the Tommyknockers). From there it’s off to confront her other minions who apparently have been slacking in their responsibilities. And that leads to a flashback which forms the actual film.
Mickey Santini (Ben Silver, Skoid), is a retired hitman who wants to spend the rest of his days with his wife and child. But he also likes to gamble and owes a lot of money to the wrong people. Which means he gets blackmailed into doing one last job. After getting instruction from Rachael Dubois (Dani Thompson, Beyond Fury, Cowgirls vs. Pterodactyls) he’s on his way.
Now, this isn’t exactly the most original of plots, but writer Chris Sanders (Nest of Vampires) and director Randy Kent (Blood Tulips, Chinese Speaking Vampires)have a twist on it, although it’s not all that original either. And with a title like Demons at Dawn you’ve probably already guessed it involves the occult.
And I’ll admit the idea of a hitman taking on a satanic cult has quite a bit of appeal, whether played as an Angel Heart style occult noir or a more action-oriented piece of survival horror. And when Mickey gets to his destination only to find the target already dead and a woman named Teri (Amanda Himsworth) pointing a gun at him and a hooded figure stalking around it looks like Demons at Dawn is about to get interesting. It doesn’t.
The idea of a professional killer set up by a gang that trafficks people not for sex but for human sacrifice by highly placed Satanists is just begging to be made into an over-the-top bloodbath. Instead, Demons at Dawn is slow and talky with much of its running time taken up by characters who seem to be there only to deliver a couple of lines and either die or lapse back into silence.
I can only imagine these were the folk who put out for the “custom speaking role” perk during the film’s crowdfunding campaign. Although if they got that many people to drop that kind of cash they certainly should have been able to afford some real effects. Instead what we get are dead bodies with a swipe of fake blood on them and demons in dollar store robes and cheap rubber masks left over from last Halloween. The fog at least looks good, too bad it couldn’t cover up the ridiculous attempt at a gore effect that looks like one of those eyeball on a spring gags.
And then the film switches back to an epilogue with Chao Feng and her crew that’s as monumentally stupid as everything that’s come before it. The lousy CGI transformation scene just adds insult to injury. I’d say that Demons at Dawn’s flashback format ruined the film’s suspense, but it’s so poorly put together that it wouldn’t have worked any up regardless of how the story was told.
This is really a misfire on every level. The acting ranges from barely acceptable to downright embarrassing, which also makes me think much of the cast bought their roles. I can’t imagine actually casting some of the people I saw in this. Given the dialogue they’re asked to deliver, I suppose I should give them credit for saying it with a straight face.
Don’t let my suffering be in vain, heed my warning and avoid Demons at Dawn at all costs. It’s the cinematic equivalent of somebody shitting in your trick or treat bag. Black Coppice Films will release Demons at Dawn to Digital and VOD platforms on October 28th. If you’re looking for something similar but hopefully better, FilmTagger has some suggestions for you.