Dead By Dawn – Part 1

lodeadbydawnIt’s that time of the year again, the annual horror film festival, Dead By Dawn, has landed in Edinburgh and the shabby, shambling hordes have descended on the Filmhouse for four days of carnage, gore, comedy, brutality, suspense, caffeine and alcohol. This will be the eighth(?) time I’ve subjected myself to the experience and the line-up this year seems to be carrying on the winning quality from the past couple of outings.

Last night opened with an entertaining short called The Room by a couple of stupidly young brothers from Miami who were on hand to give it a brief and excessively American welcome. I was ready for a fairly mediocre short here as the programme had billed it as something akin to the slew of ‘torture-porn’ films which have polluted the cinemas of late (the Saw franchise, Hostel, etc)*. Basically a woman trapped in a room by a faceless, nameless captor, trying to escape at all costs, etc, etc. Fortunately it turned this premise on its head pretty early on and we realise that maybe it’s not the captive who is actually in danger. Could have been a bit more polished but all in all a good bit of fun.

The main feature though, Blood River, was made entirely out of win. First thing to note is that it was directed by one Adam Mason whose first movie, Broken, is one of my all-time favourite films from the festival – one of the most relentlessly bleak, vicious, brutal, misanthropic and original films I’ve seen, with an ending that just blew me away and knocked any remaining traces of wind right out of my sails. It’s difficult to find but worth the effort, just don’t suggest it as a date movie.

Blood River follows a newly-pregnant couple en route to visit the wife’s parent to break the good news. They suffer a blow-out in the middle of the desert and end up stranded in a ghost town with no water, no spare tyre and no means of communication – no hope basically. Fortunately a stranger who has suffered a similar problem wanders into town and agrees to help them, although it’s immediately obvious that he’s not exactly on the level. Things go downhill pretty quickly as the stranger starts to uncover nasty secrets from the past, leading to an ending every bit as bleak and nasty as Broken.

To be honest it’s pretty easy to pick holes in the plot and you’ll find yourself asking “why the fuck did he do that?” and “how could she have possibly known that happened?” quite a lot but the overall tone of the film more than makes up for it. The whole thing is beautifully shot, with surroundings perfectly matching the mood, and the acting was definitely above par – especially the OTT stranger.

The action continues today, will attempt to write something up about it tomorrow morning. Whisky may get in the way though…

*Note – I don’t support the Daily Mail et al‘s campaign against these films, I just use the ‘torture’ porn label as a handy catch-all. The only thing wrong with these films is that they tend to be pretty shit and fill cinemas with noisy teenagers.

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