“After The Dawn”

 

Midnight Releasing-Street date: 9/25/12

 

Director-Mitchel A. Jones

Written by: Nicole Kruex & Michel A. Jones

Pricipal Cast:

Cassie Becker-Nicole Kruex

Jake-Tommy Propson

Jake Becker-Aaron Courteau

Alan-Shane McCaffrey

 

                The zombie film—where do I start? It’s been done to DEATH!! The undead have appeared as: runners, walkers, shamblers, pets, slaves, sex objects(!), “super soldiers”, comedic foils, and even strippers! I still enjoy ‘em to death, but every once in a while, when you sit down to watch what you think is going to be some walking corpses chow down on some poor, sappy bastards, an excellent drama sneaks up on you. Enter “After The Dawn”.

 

                Beginning life as “Discursion”, “After the Dawn” features Nicole Kruex as “Cassie”, a woman wandering through a post apocalyptic landscape accompanied by a young boy, whom she names “Jake” after her brother, looking for something that isn’t always clear. All the while the unlikely pair try to stay one step ahead on the “infected”. Owing more to Danny Boyle than George Romero, we find through flash-back sequences, that these ghouls are the product of a chemical agent attack that quickly spread to the rest of the country.

 

                Films, like life, aren’t always back and white, and it quickly becomes clear that Cassie’s also path isn’t so clear—will her journey end with: her missing fiancé Alan? Survivors? Redemption? Salvation? Madness? Or truth? Deftly scripted, the film proper contains surreal set-pieces, action scenes, and some genuine scares as we follow Cassie and Jake to their ultimate “end game”. One diner scene in particular brings to mind the bar scene from Kubrick’s “The Shining”, though in a completely different context.

 

                Technically, the movie really shines—even sound mix, great clarity, and cinematography that effectively toggles between intimate and detached. Ably acted by the entire cast, Kruex, in particular, delivers a commanding performance that brings a somber vulnerability to the “Cassie” character, as opposed to the general “action chick” one would expect from a film of this type. And the emotional depth of this film is why it succeeds so well in a genre cluttered with failures. The “Walking Dead” approach to zombie cinema seems to be de riguer these days, but oftentimes indie film makers on a budget tend to over-reach, and try to match the scale and scope of the studio boys. The people behind “After the Dawn” have managed to make a thrilling, emotional wrenching, and satisfying dramatic film disguised as a “zombie flick”, by squeezing every last bit of use out of the resources they had available. Director Jones also delivers a brilliant twist ending that leaves just enough ambiguity to keep the viewer thinking about the film long after the credits roll.

 

                Are there gripes with this film? Sure—minor ones. Cassie has a vaguely British accent while her brother doesn’t, and if you’re stealthily moving through the countryside, trying to avoid detection, it’s probably not a great idea to have a clangy-ass aluminum water bottle clipped to your backpack. Other than that, and a few zombie make-ups looking phoned in, there’s not many chinks in the armor here.

 

                Marketed right, “After the Dawn” could be one of those films that finds a cult following of genre fans that “get it”. Skillful direction by Jones, the best performance by an indie actress that I’ve seen this year from Kruex, and a winning script make this film a keeper, buy it, rent it, borrow it and don’t return it, but definitely watch “After the Dawn”—it’s done well and done right. 9/10.

 

Thomas Gleba