So I checked out Just Before Dawn on youtube the other day, in my effort to actually get shit that is on my watch list crossed off. This film was done by Blue Sunshine director Jeff Lieberman, who also did Squirm and Satan's Little Helper. And I write this review while heavily under the influence of early 80's pop band Level 42!!!!!
This movie had the ingredients all right. You could tell by watching it that it wasn't just a carbon copy of something else. Okay, it had some elements of Friday the 13th and or Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Whatev. Did I mention I rewatched Texas Chainsaw Massacre on this blog yet? I dunno if I did. Hm. That was a fucking groundbreaking film right there. Number one, the thing people might not think about, what the camera work and the sounds. It's shot in a extremely stylistic, very nauseating way. Extreme close ups, shaky cam before it was cool, that movie broke some fucking ground.
Back to Just Before Dawn. JBD has that typical beginning, a group of 5 friend are piled into an RV on their way to visit the mountain land. On their way they encounter the helpful stranger that warns them against it (George Kennedy), then the crazed local who has seen the threat ahead of them but can't simply choke out the words "there is a crazed fucking killer up there, don't go." So the horny 5 friends drive on up, and head out to see the land. They're just doing their thing, camping, hooking up, wandering around. But then they discover an old church with a dead guy in it, and start hearing weird sounds all over, and soon enough there's a huge lumbering dude who's hacking peeps with a machete, as well as some crazy hillbillies who want the 5 of them outta there.
The music is done by Terminator guy Brad Fiedel. It's one of the best parts of the film, perhaps non-coincidentally. Things like that help the movie along, as well as the early presence of the killer. Although, this does do the "classic" of having a kill early on, then having plot for like 45 minutes before the killer comes a-swinging back for more.
I will say they did some interesting, and not seen anywhere else innovations with the killer guy. There's a cool little subplot about twins, which I think should have been mentioned more, but the crazed twist in the end is that there are in fact two killers, and they're twins. It's interesting enough of a twist, and I can't say that I've seen a movie with killer twins much, besides that movie Bloody Birthday.
Wow. I was just on IMDb, look at how many horror movies (most of them slashers) came out in 1981, to capitalize on the craze:
My Bloody Valentine (February)
Bloody Birthday (April)
Graduation Day (May)
Happy Birthday to Me (May)
The Burning (May) great little film right here, probably 4 stars
Final Exam (June)
Don't Go in the Woods (September)
Night School (September)
Just Before Dawn (October)
Dark Night of the Scarecrow (October)
The Prowler (November)
That took way too long to look up. Anyways. This movie was good, but I think I'd built up a lot of anticipation for it. The pacing isn't the best, and the kills are pretty bland for the most part. The atmosphere is very meh too. The killer is okay, but not a lot of presence besides cutting people. There's a brief topless scene. The kill fodder, the 5 friends, are pretty weak and you won't care about them. So basically, it's very average, so 3 stars.