Dead by Dawn 2017 – The Void Review
Director: Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski
Starring: Aaron Poole, Kenneth Welsh, Kathleen Munroe, Daniel Fathers, Mik Byskov
Run Time: 90mins
Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski are best known, directorially anyway, for their work with Astron 6 with the films Father’s Day and Manborg (this was directed by Kostanski solo). Both of which were loving parodies of genre cinema, grindhouse in the former case and 80’s sci-fi action in the latter, done in a knowing, over the top, outlandish high camp style.
In much the same way this is also a loving tribute to horror cinema but played much straighter than with their Astron 6 stuff. Which is not to say there is no laughs, there is, but anyone looking for the out and out wacky humour of Father’s Day will be left sorely disappointed as Gillespie and Kostanski dial that stuff way back.
Which is not to say it isn’t any good as it most certainly is and it is not even to say it isn’t wacky as the film goes completely nuts toward the end but just in a different way to the aforementioned movies. Like a lot of the best horrors the set-up is very simple as a rag-tag group, for varying disparate reasons, end up in a hospital at night which is been run by a skeleton staff. The first to arrive being patrolman Dan Carter (Aaron Poole) who gets there with a wounded criminal James (Evan Stern). This being a movie one of the doctors at this particular hospital Allison (Kathleen Munroe) is Dan’s ex-wife with whom he shares unresolved issues over a miscarriage she had. Elsewhere there is Allison’s mentor Dr Powell (Kenneth Welsh, who you may remember as Windom Earle in Twin Peaks), an incompetent intern (Ellen Wong), a pregnant teenager (Grace Munro) and her father (James Millington), a no-nonsense cop (Art Brindle) as well as a handful of patients.
They soon realised they are trapped in their as the building is suddenly surrounded by mysterious hooded figures who could possibly be a satanic cult of some kind or could be something more demonic. Not only that but the hospital is soon stuck up by a Father and son (Daniel Fathers and Mik Byskov) intent on revenge on the wounded which they are soon get side-tracked from as weird things start happening in the hospital too as the group have to deal with patients transforming into gloopy monsters, the effects are excellent throughout which is not surprising given Gillespie and Kostanski’s respective art department and special make-up effects backgrounds.
While largely an effects driven film and one that draws you in with its visual flourishes some of the performances are pretty decent too with both Poole and Munroe being likable lead characters that you naturally root. Possibly the best performance comes from Welsh though as kindly and avuncular Dr Powell who may not be all he seems. In fact many of the character are not what they initially appear as there are regular plot twists and character reveals which keep the audience on its toes all the way through to the frankly demented final act.
Any horror fan worth their salt will start to see the many reference points to other movies here. At first John Carpenter is the most obvious influence. With the rag-tag group in an isolated understaffed location bringing to mind Assault on Precinct 13 while with some the creature effects there is a clear heavy influence from The Thing. Viewers will also notice the influence of the likes of The Beyond, Hellraiser and Re-Animator. Probably less intentional but still noticeable due the movie similar obsession with triangles there is even a tinge of last year’s The Neon Demon. The interesting
thing about all this is that for all the movie wear its influence on its sleeve it is not bogged down by them and unlike many movies that are knowingly genre-savvy and referential there is no feeling of I wanting to be watching one of them instead of this.
Verdict: This is an absolute treat for horror fans, from two directors who clearly know and love the genre, which is packed with great gore, superb practical effects and managed to say on the right side of being reverential without being derivative.
Words by Scott Murphy