DAWN (2006) – By Jordan Garren

 You know, lately the independent film community has been shocking the hell out of me; case in point is Jay Reel’s directorial debut, Dawn. Though it’s being advertised as a full-on horror film, this movie is more of a drama that’s sprinkled with horror elements. Essentially this tragic tale revolves around Dawn, a half-vampire/half-human, and her loving father, John. When we first meet these two, it seems like they are just a normal father and daughter, down on their luck and living a nomadic life on the road for some unknown reason. But we soon learn that this dysfunctional family has to keep moving because Dawn needs to feed on human blood. Though she has moments where she acts a bit feral, Dawn prefers using a special sense to locate sick or dying people and graciously puts them out of their misery in order to continue her own existence.

Fully recharged after dining on an old man dying of pancreatic cancer, Dawn and her dad head to a small town in Oklahoma, which conveniently happens to be Dawn’s birthplace. Unluckily for the father and daughter duo, a psychic by the name of Carlton Reed (played by director Jay Reel) has picked up Dawn’s scent, and takes it upon himself to stop the young girl from taking any more lives. Toward the end of the film, Dawn lashes out and kills a police officer and essentially dooms herself and her loving father. John and Dawn quickly move deep into the woods and have one last loving moment before they both come to a tragic and extremely sad end. How sad of an end you ask? Well let’s just say that yours truly choked back a few tears before the end credits began to roll.

Dawn is a very emotion-driven film and asks the question, "How far would you go to protect and raise a child with special needs?" John (played by Ray Boucher) has to keep moving from town to town after his daughter feeds and never utters a complaint, and he even makes her caps for her massive canine teeth, so that she looks normal in public. He gives her lots of love and affection and for the most part, is a model parent. The interaction between Ray Boucher and Kacie Young seems nearly perfect, and you never question their father/daughter relationship for a second. Moving onto Dawn, this poor young girl is terrified of herself and thinks that she’s a monster. As the film progresses, she becomes gradually edgier until she reaches her breaking point and gnaws on a cop’s neck. You truly begin to feel sorry for this child’s plight, because she detests what she is, and yearns to be normal like all the other children she sees around her.

Director, writer, and star Jay Reel has created one of the best dramatic horror films I’ve ever seen and has put a unique spin on the vampire mythos. Not only do the bloodsuckers walk about in the daylight, but for the most part, they like to keep hidden and only feed on the sick and dying if they can help it. They also die as easily as your or I (though they do heal incredibly fast) and their lifespan isn’t nearly as long as you’d expect. However, they still have the need to feed on human blood and are quite a bit stronger than mere mortal men! As you can tell, I really enjoyed this film and hold it in high regard, and luckily Dawn has gotten a proper DVD release thanks to the folks at Tempe Entertainment.

This black and white film is featured in a good clean transfer with 2.0 Dolby Surround Sound. The disc’s special features include an audio commentary with the cast & crew, a seventeen-minute "Gag Reel," and a handful of Tempe Video movie trailers. The best thing of all is that this DVD is a Region 0 disc and can be played worldwide! For more information on the movie and to pre-order it before its August 15th release date, visit Tempe Video.com . Here’s hoping that Jay Reel’s impressive film debut garners the respect it deserves, and that Mr. Reel hops back in the director’s seat again very soon. If Dawn is any indication of his talent, then I can’t wait to see what else he comes up with in the future.