A group of college kids accidentally releases a curse that causes people to kill themselves, and then turn into a half-zombie, half demon…thing. Hilarity supposedly ensues.
What to make of DEAD BEFORE DAWN?
A Horror-Comedy that isn’t quite scary enough to be a Horror movie, nor funny enough to be a full-on comedy. Its central premise is promising, but doesn’t quite get fleshed out.
The film’s protagonist is Casper (Devon Bostick), a nerdy college-aged kid who is an amalgamation of every nerdy college male in the history of movies. He’s always late, yearns for the hot blonde yet is oblivious to the attentions of the frumpier “close friend”, and is picked on by everyone for no obvious reason whatsoever. One day, he agrees to help his Grandfather (a totally game Christopher Lloyd) by manning the Grandfather’s Occult store for a day. Of course, there is a mysterious urn inside the store that Casper is told to not touch under any circumstance, and of course, no one listens. In order to impress a girl, Casper pulls it down and unintentionally breaks the urn, unleashing a spirit that curses both Casper and his group of friends, who are quite possibly the most unrealistically portrayed college students ever. I’m serious. Check out the popped collar on the “Preppie Douchebag” character. And yes, I do believe that is an alligator on his polo shirt. What is this, 1986?
To give you an idea of the depth of the script we are dealing with, the group basically spells out the curse in a self-aware “Hey, look how clever we are” bit of exposition, and the curse then becomes everything they spell out. Each person these cursed kids look at kill themselves and then come back as Zeemons (half zombie, half demon. Marvel at the cleverness.)
What follows is an odd hybrid of low budget zombie flick and teenage John Hughes-esque comedy, with neither part really working. The comedy is a little TOO goofy to work properly, while the horror elements are played more for slapstick than any real thrills. This wouldn’t be too bad if the actors involved had played it a lot more subtle, but subtle really isn’t the object here. Everyone here, with the exception of Christopher Lloyd, plays their roles absolutely and utterly over the top. There isn’t a single character that comes out of this overacting extravaganza unscathed.
The Horror, for what little of it there is, is reminiscent of early Peter Jackson, with the filmmakers trying to pull off a zany, over the top style, which by itself would have worked, except when it didn’t. Some of the deaths were inspired (the football player stabbing himself with the yard marker was funny), but mostly just fell flat. Kills were telegraphed a mile away, and are played more for laughs. If you are a gorehound, you will be disappointed. There is a surprising lack of any red stuff involved for a movie about zombie demon (I’m sorry… ZEEMON) possession, so the R rating isn’t really justified.
Everything about DEAD BEFORE DAWN is just a little bit too much…Too. Too goofy to be really funny. Dialogue that is too stilted and unnatural to sound right. Acting that is just too over the top. Nothing works the way its probably intended. If you are a zombie fan, I recommend staying away.
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