Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Dawning (2009)

A night of potential healing turns way of harm

This is more of a basic and gradual drama with lesser elements of a thriller/horror that plays on emotions with family members in an isolated dwelling that causes tempers and resentment to flair up from their past and also something else in the surrounding woods that acts as an accelerator.

Siblings make the drive out to visit their father and step mother at their remote cabin in Minnesota. This starts out with a slightly condescending air and set of awkward moments with the we-don't-share-feelings-out-loud family. To make relations worse, the sister's dog becomes mysteriously injured in the wooded area and has to be put down. Things are being smoothed over when an injured man with a crazed look in his eye and tattered clothing enters the house in what looks to be a home invasion. He holds the family hostage, not to hurt them outright, but to possibly save them for what's making mysterious noises outside. "Just tell us what you want. If you want to stay, we'll leave." He responds, "You can't leave. If you leave you'll die."

There's a share of in fighting once the tables get turned and they have to establish what to do next. The family was already skating on thin ice, so without a clear solution in sight trust issues arise as each of the members have their share of faults come out and used against one another, along with some fears--alcoholism, violence--having to be faced. This is upfront with the backgrounds of the family but highly elusive when it comes to the underlying darker aspect. A few strange occurrences happen as a layover in the meantime, such as the phones giving off an unknown frequency and someone hearing another say something that wasn't actually said. Some can't stand still and show aggressive tendencies to solve problems, while others stand around and try to talk matters out.

This is a film that starts as an unknown seed and starts to grow and grow with more spiraling events to surround and suffocate its structure till it implodes or explodes. There are some lulls in areas and others that slightly retread over familiar ground, though a share of this steadily builds with a forward motion and still enough room to generate an uneasy atmosphere. I like films that are able to suck you in and make their characters real, which this had enough time and used the right amount of subtleties to make that happen. Time was taken with the character's performances and dialogue and they actually feel familiar with each other to create credibility.

This is essentially two films in one: one with the family and their issues, and two with the strange man and a mysterious entity in the midst; something that's unseen along the lines of "Pontypool" without being exactly alike. Even the subgenre is unknown: just that it ends with violence involving someone you loved but acted selfish and unappreciative towards. The problem is there wasn't always enough of a balance between the two. The clues for the latter are more than just a challenge while watching and at some point you're yearning for more, only to have the credits come a rollin' with more questions than answers. Why this cabin? Why now? Why dawn? Some of the minor components are still there on the surface to get by, so this can still be watched on more of a basic level, just not something that has enough personality to repeat over and over again to uncover more. Where the message gets jumbled is it's not entirely established if bad things wouldn't have been brought to them if they stuck together as a loving, understanding unit of each other, or if this was inevitable and the drama portion was only used to create tension as a layover to frighten the audience from something unexplained. Possibly both, but this could have used further development on the former to carry more of a roundabout meaning.

The verdict: This is worth a watch for a simplistic independent movie that concentrates on a relating human element rather than going the special effects or superficial blood route, but the experience gets off too easily and leaves itself too open to interpretation for what it took so much time building up. With a few more surprises, layers or rules stated this could have been a more impactful experience that I wouldn't have minded returning to since there are already relatable characters in place instead of cut outs.

Rating: 6.5/10

Director: Gregg Holtgrewe
Link: IMDB

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