Directed by Gregg Holtgrewe
Written by Gregg Holtgrewe & Matthew Wilkins
Starring David Coral, Jonas Goslow, Christine Kellogg-Darrin, Daniel Jay Salmen, & Najarra Townsend
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DAWNING is one of those horror films I love to see. It’s a low budgeteer relies on smart writing in order to amp up scares and not necessarily make it obvious that the film was done on the cheap. While there is actually one location this film is shot in, it’s never obvious or restricting. In that, DAWNING is a successful indie horror film, done for cheap but in a way that never broadcasts it.
DAWNING centers around a brother and sister, Chris and Aurora, as they return to their family home after an extended period of time away. The family has its demons. Father is a recovering alcoholic and mother seems to have left the family for an extended period of time. The vacation at the cabin in the woods starts out pleasant, but it is filled with tension. No one of the family wants to talk about the difficulties they’ve inflicted upon each other to spoil the pleasantries, but when the family dog is found dead, emotions flare and the demons just below the surface start to show themselves. Soon a stranger shows up to the home telling the family that there is something evil in the woods and that no one will survive the night.
Director Gregg Holtgrewe does a great job of building tension in DAWNING. Though some of the actors fall a bit short in delivering the performances required for such a focused character piece, the story does flow pretty well and by the time the stranger shows up, I did care for the family enough to hope they came out alive. Though this film is admirable in that it worked well within its budgetary restraints, I found the ending of DAWNING to be frustrating. Though I won’t reveal it here, the lack of resolution or clear definition of the threat out in the woods in the end, though creative, left me wanting a bit more. That said, filmmakers who attempt to make films way out of their budgetary restraints (ahem, I’m talking to you SyFy filmmakers of DINOSHARK and the like) could learn a lot from what Holtgrewe does with so little in DAWNING. A dark woods and some patience proves to be a while lot more intense than a badly CGI-ed shark any old day.