Sunday, March 9, 2014

Horror Film Review

Dead Before Dawn (2012):  Zombie flick!  From Canada, eh.  And, for reasons passing understanding, it was shot in full stereoscopic 3-D.  Not that there's anything wrong with that, but this is not exactly the kind of film the IMAX folks show in their theaters.  Hell, it's not the kind of film normal theater owners would show, which makes it exactly the kind of film I want to see. 

While trying to impress his friends, and of course a girl, nerdy college student Casper Galloway (Devon Bostick) accidentally breaks an urn in his grandfather's (Christopher Lloyd) occult shop.  The curse that's unleashed is of their own making.  See, Casper freaks out causing much of the following, "Oh, sure.  A curse.  Like anyone we make eye contact with will commit suicide and then come back from the dead to kill you."  So they mock, and the mocking becomes the parameters of the curse.  Silly things, like if you French kiss one of the undead (they call them zemons...zombies created by a demon), it will become your slave.  And not so silly things like if they don't somehow reverse the curse by dawn, it will become permanent.  To reverse it, they must locate a number of items around campus scavenger hunt style.  Their rolling HQ is an old Winnebago.  Weapons vary from a crossbow to a rolling pin to a few grenades (don't ask me why they'd have grenades).  The climax finds them in a cemetery where they must dig up Casper's great grandfather.  They need his watch for the curse reversal. Or something.  The cemetery scene is weird.  OK...weirder.  Do they succeed?  Yep.  Does any of it make a lick of sense?  Nope.

A couple of things:  Bostick seems to be channeling Zachary Levi when Levi played a reluctant CIA agent in the TV show Chuck.  It's really quite spooky.  Christopher Lloyd as Grandpa finds occasion to say "Great Scott!"  Shameless?  Yes, but it still works for him.  One thing that didn't work so well was how they dealt with the death of Casper's loved ones.  Pathos in a horror-comedy works about as well as slapstick in a Shakespeare tragedy.  "To be, or not to be...nyuk, nyuk, nyuk."

The Skinny

Acting:  Bostick anchors the uneven performances which, if I'm honest, could have been worse.  Surprisingly un-sucky.  Although the screaming in terror every five minutes wears thin in a big damn hurry.  Kids In the Hall alum Kevin McDonald is fun as Professor Duffy.
Story:  While it is a mash up of subgenres, it manages to find its own voice. 
Direction:  Actress turned director April Mullen reins in the chaos competently and keeps the narrative pointed in the right direction.  As this was shot in 3-D, there are the obligatory scenes with stuff flying at the camera but it's not overly distracting.
Production Values:  I have no budget data, but the sets look real and the sound and lighting aren't crappy.  That's all that matters.
Gore/FX:  Nothing excessive beyond a bit of blood and brains.  That is to say, you shouldn't puke.  There's a bit of CGI, and what there is isn't awful.
Scares:  They try a few "gotcha" jump scares. I didn't jump.
Ending:  Ever seen a horror film where no one dies?  Me either.
Verdict:  Should you see Dead Before Dawn?  It's harmless enough, maybe worth a look if you're into hor-coms.  If you were a fan of Chuck, see it for Bostick and his uncanny, if not unintentional, impression of Levi. 

Rating:  3 out of 5

1 comment:

  1. Hi bud --- finally! Where you been? Glad to see you're still reviewing.
    Happy week to you.