Directed by Drew Casson
Starring Bethan Leadley, Cherry Wallis, Drew Casson and Tom Scarlett
Indie Film Review by Bailey Claringbold
Chloe and her sister Sam live a normal family life with their parents, until one unthinkable day. When reports come in of an attack, their mother goes missing and their father is killed before their eyes by an otherworldly creature. Along with the help of a dysfunctional group of scavengers, Chloe and Sam must do what they can to survive the invasion.
Although the story was not the most original, the compelling characters, and focus on the relationships between them, helped the film to achieve a certain uniqueness and charm. The Darkest Dawn was very much in the vein of District 9 (2009), in terms of its tone, storytelling and filming. Although there were elements of a Sci-Fi flick like District 9, this was much more of a character study than expected, which put an enjoyable spin on things. The way the film chose to have a very brief setup and jump straight into the main plot was interesting, adding to the realism of the strange events suddenly taking place.
The performances were generally sound, driving the screenplay well. The cast had a believable chemistry, not knowing who to trust and creating different factions between themselves. Chloe (Bethan Leadley) was the most fleshed out character, and almost acted as the audience, questioning what was happening and not knowing what was around the corner. This was a wise choice on the writer's behalf. Cowen (Drew Casson) was another stand out character, the leader of a gang trying to survive in the deserted wastelands, he brought a sense of uneasiness into the mix. Another little thing that jumped out was the fact that Tom Scarlett's performance as Adam, a no-nonsense hard case, was reminiscent of Tom Hardy in his mannerisms and speech patterns.
Shaky cam can be a risky move, considering the amount of found footage films that use it as a cheap way to film, it can be hard to make it seem necessary. Thankfully, The Darkest Dawn did not fall into the trap, the shots felt natural and fell perfectly into place. Although, the editing could be a little choppy sometimes, meaning that some emotional scenes were cut short in places. The CGI held up nicely for an independent film, even though some scenes were clearly animated there was not an over reliance or over reliance on the effects, meaning that for the most part it blended in with the post-apocalyptic locations rather well.
By only using diegetic sound and lacking a soundtrack, the indie film had a much more tense and grounded atmosphere. With no music, it led the attention to character's footsteps and breathing which gave eerie vibes and complemented the screenplay. Though scores such as Alan Silvestri's for Predator can emphasise the confinement of a scene, the movie managed to get away with its exclusion.
The Darkest Dawn was most definitely surprising in terms of its screenplay and character development. Though it could have come off as a bland Sci-Fi movie, there was much more depth here, in terms of writing and from a technical standpoint, that leaves this as one of the best recent independent films.