The feature directorial debut of Brett Anstey, Australian import Damned by Dawn represents a stab at homage to the classic Hammer Horror films of yore. It does not succeed terribly. Or, rather, it is terrible… but just not in a successful way.
Claire (Renee Willner) takes her new boyfriend Paul (Danny Alder) home to meet her family, who live on an isolated property in the country. The family reunion begins well enough, but Claire becomes increasingly uneasy with the medicated mumblings of her ailing grandmother (Dawn Klingberg), who is convinced that an evil spirit is coming for her during the night. Later that evening, the family is awoken by piercing shrieks, and Claire’s worst fears become a waking nightmare as the Screaming Banshee (Bridget Neval) and her army of undead return to unleash blood-soaked fury on them all.
Horror is especially a director’s medium, but since the story here is so simple and straightforward, execution is additionally paramount. The problem is that Damned by Dawn‘s acting, composition and editing work decidedly against any artfully elicited tension. As well as writing and directing the film, Anstey also created more than four hundred visual effects shots for the film, though the amount of digitally added fog eventually becomes absolutely risible. While some of the effects shots are technically quite accomplished, their deployment in overly affected “intense” shock cuts (along with accompanying soundtrack squeals and peals) becomes wearying quite quickly, even before the 40-second-long tea kettle scream that announces the movie’s monstrous siege.
Damned by Dawn comes to Blu-ray presented in 1080p high definition in 1.78:1 widescreen, with a DTS-HD master 5.1 audio track. In addition to separate cast and crew audio commentary tracks and the movie’s trailer, there is an extremely comprehensive 55-minute making-of featurette, which tracks the movie through inception (Anstey cites Taste the Blood of Dracula as an early inspiration), production and post-production, and is actually more interesting than the finished product. To purchase the movie’s Blu-ray or DVD via Amazon, click here. D (Movie) B+ (Disc)