DAMNED BY DAWN (2009) Review

Directed by: Brett Anstey
Starring: Renee Willner, Bridget Neval, Dawn Klingberg, Danny Alder

Being Australian myself I'm always up for seeing a good Aussie film, especially if it falls into the horror / thriller / drama categories. But I will also be the first to admit that this country will definitely not be remembered for it's contributions to horror cinema. I could name a whole bunch of fantastic Australian movies like Mad Max or Romper Stomper or Snowtown or Two Hands but when it comes to horror not much really comes to mind. I guess Razorback is good, and The Loved Ones is great and I enjoyed Wolf Creek but other than that they are mostly average or below such as Patrick or Black Water. Unfortunately DAMNED BY DAWN continues this tradition.

Claire (Willner) travels with boyfriend Paul (Alder) to visit her relatives whom she hasn't seen for a year and a half. It turns out that her grandmother (Klingberg) is dying and she has entrusted Claire with a special urn, telling her that she wants to be cremated. She also tells her of the 'lady of sorrows' who will come when it's time for her to die and take her soul. This lady is a banshee and must not be prevented from doing her job Claire is told, but on the night that this banshee comes she decides to interfere. Bad idea. The banshee gets pissed off and uses it's wail to raise the dead who come after Claire and her family. Claire has to find a way to stop this banshee and her hordes of undead before her it's too late.

I applaud DAMNED BY DAWN for utilizing the legend of the banshee which is not often done in horror films (the last one I saw was Syfy's Scream of the Banshee which was fucking terrible) but unfortunately this main story is underdeveloped and it's not long before the film skews off in a different and well tread direction which involves a group of people in a house trying to survive a supernatural attack.
The similarities to The Evil Dead are too numerous and obvious for me to overlook, from the familiar looking woods permanently shrouded in fog to many of the camera setups to even the fucking title itself which is clearly ripped straight from Evil Dead II. I'm not sure whether this was supposed to be seen as an homage or just a rip-off but personally I think it has borrowed way too much.
Visually this movie looked great especially the outdoor shots but they were ruined a little by the fog some of the time which I couldn't really make up my mind as to whether it was real or CGI. Whatever it was sometimes it looked good and sometimes it looked shit. And speaking of CGI this is where the movie really lost points from me. It was a shame too because there was some quite good use of practical effects but these were offset by the laughably fake flying ghouls.

Being an independent, direct to video movie with amateur actors and a first time director, DAMNED BY DAWN has obviously been made by passionate horror fans. However I didn't find it scary in the slightest, the writing was average, the acting a bit shabby and the CGI just ruined it for me. With perhaps a bigger budget and more development of the banshee myth this could have been more enjoyable but as it is it's really just another below average Australian horror flick.

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