To be honest, as opposed to lying through my teeth, I wasn't looking forward to this. Paddy from Emmerdale + zombies = not much fun. To add to this, I wasn't that keen on his inclusion in last year's Inbred.
But, I was pleasantly surprised and really enjoyed this. Before Dawn came about through discussions between Dominic Brunt and his wife Joanne Mitchell, who both star. They were discussing the zombie genre and had different ideas on its merits. This film is a combination of the two schools of thought.
My favourite part of the film is the initial build up of tension as we meet Alex and Meg, played by the aforementioned real-life couple, who are having a last ditch attempt at saving their marriage by getting away to the countryside. Meg is a really miserable character. Just as Alex tries to make suggestions for the future that he thinks she will appreciate, she shoots him down and hunts for her 'surgically attached' mobile phone to communicate with her buddies and personal trainer (who may or may not be gay, I suspect not). Although Alex has his faults he comes across as a likeable fellow who loves his wife and will do anything for her. Quite literally.
I enjoyed the drama so much, with the hint of a zombie apocalypse happening in the background, that it's almost a shame when the zombies appear. I like the 'no guns' idea to make it very British and it is funny to see Alex charging around a garage trying to find new weapons to batter a zombie. But the handheld camera work is possibly overdone in the zombie attack sequences, as is the score. I can understand why a more action based sequence was included to pep up the drama elements but for my personal taste I would have been quite happy for things to develop more slowly (I love Stephen Poliakoff's work after all). Also the ending is slightly confusing, despite a visually great shot of Alex sitting while zombies flood into the room, I wasn't 100% sure what was going on. At least it links back to the couple and their relationship.
The film is well-written, with what is not said being as important as the actual dialogue, and well-shot with gorgeous use of depth of field. The director said that he found it hard to direct and act, and he would probably concentrate on directing in the future. This is a shame on one hand because the acting in the film is pretty convincing, but positive on the other because he shows a surprising flair for directing. One scene where he has a phone conversation with his daughter is particularly effective.
Before Dawn shows that zombie films don't need to be all about the effects and don't need the hundreds of extras required to make a horde. Focussing on a relationship has definitely produced something different.
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