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Before Dawn

Year: 2013
Production Co: Mitchell-Brunt Films
Director: Dominic Brunt
Producer: Dominic Brunt/Helen Grace/Joanne Mitchell
Writer: Mark Illis/Joanne Mitchell
Cast: Dominic Brunt, Joanne Mitchell

We've seen so many zombie movies and series over the last 20 years there's only two possible reasons to watch any of them any more; if they introduce us to a new idea in the mythology, or if they're well made.

The latter applies to this very handmade film from what appears to be a very indie group of filmmakers (lots of the same surnames in the credits, many people filling multiple roles, etc), it's got a well written story, it's effectively shot and even though you can see the lead duo trying just a bit too hard here and there, the acting is pretty solid.

Zeroing in on another very personal story when the undead shit hits the society-wide fan, an estranged couple – Meg (Joanne Mitchell, who wrote the script) and Alex (Dominic Brunt, a popular UK soap actor who also directs) – go away to a countryside cabin for the weekend, leaving their kids with her mum in the city while they try to repair their crumbling marriage once and for all.

Making their way to the cabin and trying to enjoy the first afternoon/night there, Mitchell and Brunt convey the spoken and unspoken prickles in a longtime marriage that's run its course well – the icy silences, the same old fight straining to break over something utterly pointless, etc.

But when Meg, a fitness enthusiast, goes running along the high cliff tracks overlooking the azure but freezing North Sea, she's approached by what looks like a badly hurt man, growling and snarling incoherently. We know what's going on, but it's not until she's rolling around on the ground trying to fight the ghoul off that she realises. She succeeds and gets away, but not before the man has sunk his teeth into her thigh.

Meg struggles back to the cabin, feeling increasingly sick, where Alex puts her to bed, frantically trying to get help when it's apparent something's happening across the whole country. He not only can't raise any emergency services, he can't contact the kids and his mother in law back in the city either.

Meg's condition worsens, and when the inevitable happens he has no choice but to shove her down in the dank basement of the country house, wondering what he's going to be able to do.

Not a lot happens in the film that's particularly memorable (I remember a slightly overlong garage set piece and another in the third act when another survivor shows up), and I've read a lot of criticisms about pacing and editing, but I don't remember ever being bored.

It doesn't want to reinvent any wheels or vastly change the zombie canon, it just takes two fairly realistic people who have a fairly realistic relationship and who live in a world where nobody's ever heard of zombies and puts them in the thick of it.

There are far better zombie flicks around, but there are far worse ones too.

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