Dead by Dawn 2017 – Dry Blood Review
Director: Kelton Jones
Starring: Clint Carney, Jaymie Valentine, Kelton Jones
Run Time: 83mins
This is essentially a cabin in the woods movie but not quite your usual cabin in the woods movie. There is no Deadites or redneck serial killers here. No our main character, Brian Barnes (Clint Carney), is mainly tortured by his own mind or is he? Could there be something more supernatural afoot.
Brian is you see a recovering drug/alcohol addict who retreats to a cabin he has up in the mountains in order to clean up his act. He also tries enlists his friend/on-again-off-again-girlfriend Anna (Jaymie Valentine) to help him out in his road to recovery, which she, reluctantly, decides to do. He does not have it easy though as almost immediately he is hounded by a cop (Kelton Jones) (yes, he is literally just credited as Cop, it is not that I have forgotten the character name or anything). This cop takes an immediate disliking to him and basically stalks him à la Brian Dennehy in First Blood but contrary to that is weirdly nice to his face and keeps referring him to as “friend” albeit in an incredibly creepy manner.
Things are not much better with Anna who although initially very supportive soon tires of Brian’s freakouts that he keeps having which are largely due to various apparitions he keep seeing around the cabin which he puts down to hallucinations but starts to believe he may indeed be witnessing real paranormal activity.
Some of these scenes and jump scares are actually quite effective but some are not so much so. This may partly down to how very low budget the film is but also some of them are just clunkily done. Also at times you feel it would benefit from a more hallucinatory look instead of the rough shaky-cam look although that could be representative of the central character constant bleary-eyed hungover-ness or it could be a budgetary thing once again. Another thing that makes feel very low budget is the acting is pretty amateurish for the most part although there is a gleefulness to Jones performance as the cop. Also while Clint Carney is not the best actor there is a certain amount of charm he brings to the main character of Brian. While a bit two-dimensional n his world weary sarcastic ways he is bit like a heavy substance abusing Chandler from Friends (feel free to insert your own Matthew Perry jokes here). By far the worst acting offender is Valentine who plays Anna who has all the emotional range of an Ikea wardrobe. Whether consoling Brian or telling him off or being vaguely seduced by him she meets every situation with the blank faced disinterest.
Pacing is a bit of an issue as well as too much time is taken up with Brian and Anna bickering and seemingly have same conversations again and again, generally based around either the visions be in Brian’s head or how he promises not to mess up again only to inevitably to so minutes. On the flipside the interactions between Brian and the cop are pretty sparky and contain a good few laughs.
Despite all these frustration it is almost entirely worth it for the film’s brutal denouement. Without trying to give anything away the ending is where it really cranks up a gear or two with some spectacularly gruesome violence, a scene they push further than they you would think they would and some really effective gore effects which are even more impressive given the budget they were working with.
Overall: A frequently frustrating but at times rewarding experience. While often hampered by ropey acting and pacing issues there is a decent concept in there, some moments of real wit in the script and the brutal finale is excellently done.
Words by Scott Murphy