GORE IN THE STORE
DAWN BREAKS BEHIND THE EYES ***
Directed by Kevin Kopacka.
Starring Anna Platen, Jeff Wilbusch, Frederik von Luttichau.
Horror, Germany, 73 minutes.
Reviewed as part of Arrow Video FrightFest 2021.
Lovers of vintage Euro-horror will find themselves very much at home with Kevin Kopacka’s tribute to the likes of Mario Bava and Jean Rollin. With its gothic mansion setting, the repressed sadistic desires of a strained married couple and something creepy lurking in the basement all the ingredients are there for a throwback to the golden age of sleazy terror. Kopacka however has more up his sleeve than delivering a simple retro tribute. This is a tale that slides into different areas, both narratively and thematically, only to shift again later transforming into a film that both haunts and challenges its viewers. That Kopacka accomplishes these narrative developments in a lean 73 minutes shows us that here is a director who can achieve such interesting results on limited means.
DAWN begins with married couple Margot and Dieter moving into a vast crumbling mansion that Margot has inherited. With its vast spaces populated by dusty cobwebs, scurrying vermin, and an abundance of candles that atmosphere is ripe with something that isn’t quite right; a fact that Margot somehow seems more receptive to than her frustrated husband who seems more interested in what financial opportunities the mansion and its wine cellar can bring. Something, or someone, is lurking in the shadows out of sight all the while Margot and Dieter’s various frustrations with each other soon come to the surface in various disturbing ways.
So far so familiar, especially for genre connoisseurs, but just when the film seems to be reaching a certain turning point the storyline takes a hard turn into something quite different. To say what that is would be to reveal too much for interested readers and viewers. It is a surprising shift yet not a jarring one. Some viewers who have been paying attention may guess as to where the film is taking them but where it takes them even further along in the film is quite unpredictable. This final reveal is smartly achieved and ties up the film’s dual narratives nicely and satisfactorily together in several ways, reflecting what has come before. What could have been a mishmash of various elements is instead brought cleverly together into one cohesive storyline that could easily gather a cult audience who will obsess over the riddles at the films heart.
Like Helene Cattet and Bruno Forzani’s AMER, another vintage styled Euro-horror that made its UK bow thanks to FrightFest, this is a meticulously assembled love letter to a bygone age of the genre that manages to work as more than just a tribute. Whilst the digital filmmaking may look and feel at odds with the overall aesthetic it does not rob the film of its otherwise convincing details. Such details however are only set dressing for this film, with its various narratives and secrets and twists nestled within. It is an entertaining puzzle worth solving that despite its period details and various homages shows Kopacka as a director with a narrative command and style that promises much for the future.