The Dawn Image

The Dawn

By Bobby LePire | January 25, 2020

Then there’s Stacey Dash as Sister Ella. While arguably the most recognizable name in the feature, she gives the worst performance. Everything she says is in a flat monotone, only a few octaves above a whisper. It does not matter if she’s meant to be sincere, alarmed, or condescending it all sounds the same coming from her. What’s surprising about this is how good she’s been in other horror/ thriller titles like Patient Killer. Maybe she’s just suffering by comparison as everyone around her is so good.

The other big issue with The Dawn is repetition. The film settles into a pattern where Rose will see or do something inexplicable, and then she’ll go and talk about it with one of the fathers, then she’ll have a vision either from her past or the exorcism. While the film is only 90-minutes long, give or take, it could probably lose five to ten of those to properly maintain momentum. One less scene in a confessional and one less vision would probably do the trick.

That is not to imply that Slagle and his co-writer Elliot Diviney have nothing new to add to this crowded subgenre. On the contrary, the points they make about PTSD, be it from war or a traumatic event in your life, feel as relevant to the era of the film as it does today. This social commentary keeps the film feeling fresh and intense, even as specific sequences plod along. They also wrote very strong characters who feel realistic. Rose’s arc is absolutely fantastic, and the duo did something unexpected with her- they successfully surprised me with where their story and protagonist were going.

“…they successfully surprised me with where their story and protagonist were going.”

As a director, Slagle helms a great looking film. The cinematography in The Dawn is absolutely amazing, allowing the long hallways and corridors of the convent to swallow both Rose and the audience. It is effectively eerie and off-putting, so as the supernatural occurrences become more frequent, so too does the dread mount ever more until an explosive and wonderful ending. The editing throughout, especially between Rose’s nightmares of her father and the terrifying visions she keeps having, is fantastic. This comes heavily into play later in the film, and the increased intensity is palpable.

The Dawn has a few flaws but is still one of the better and more engaging nun-centric horror films to be released recently. Most of the actors, but especially lead Devanny Pinn, are stellar. The directing maintains an ominous atmosphere, plus the characters’ goals and motivations are clear and well-written.

The Dawn (2020)

Directed: Brandon Slagle

Written: Brandon Slagle, Elliot Diviney

Starring: Devanny Pinn, Stacey Dash, Heather Wynters, Ryan Kiser, Teilor Grubbs, Jonathan Bennett, David Goryl, etc.

Movie score: 7.5/10

The Dawn Image

"…I am not sure what it is about nuns living in convents that make them such fond subjects for horror films."

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