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Just Before Dawn
Just Before Dawn
Actors: George Kennedy, Mike Kellin, Chris Lemmon, Gregg Henry, Deborah Benson
Director: Jeff Lieberman
Genres: Horror, Mystery & Suspense
R     2005     1hr 30min

Five youths set out for a weekend camping excursion, to drink, frolic and skinny-dip on an isolated piece of land one of them has inherited. Despite ominous warnings of local forest Rangers, strange backwoods families and ...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: George Kennedy, Mike Kellin, Chris Lemmon, Gregg Henry, Deborah Benson
Director: Jeff Lieberman
Creators: Dean King, Jeff Lieberman, David Sheldon, Doro Vlado Hreljanovic, V. Paul Hreljanovic, Jonas Middleton, Mark Arywitz
Genres: Horror, Mystery & Suspense
Sub-Genres: Horror, Mystery & Suspense
Studio: Shriek Show
Format: DVD - Color
DVD Release Date: 07/26/2005
Release Year: 2005
Run Time: 1hr 30min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 17
MPAA Rating: R (Restricted)
Languages: English

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Member Movie Reviews

Jorge S. (jorgito2001) from WESLEY CHAPEL, FL
Reviewed on 10/9/2009...
After watching Jeff Liebermann's entertaining horror flick 'Satan's Little Helper', I decided to check out one of his older movies...maybe my expectations were on the CEILING for this one, but this is the 'ol cliche "murderer in the woods offing kids one by one" horror movie! It does have a unique "twist" but in my opinion, is revealed a little too early & doesn't give enough "oomph!" Still, has that "80s" slasher movie charm (which I happen to love) & a great cast!
2 of 2 member(s) found this review helpful.

Movie Reviews

"Keep breeding in the same family long enough something's bo
cookieman108 | Inside the jar... | 08/05/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)

"About once a month I'll go through the Amazon DVD `Hot New Releases' section (`Hot New Releases' basically means any DVD that's scheduled to be released and for sale on Amazon, sometimes hot, mostly not) and see what's on the horizon...and that's where I found Just Before Dawn (1981)...Amazon states it was released in 1982, while The Internet Movie Database says 1981. I had never heard of the movie (perhaps because it got lost in the morass of horror films to come out in the early 80s), but I do dig on unearthing cinematic nuggets of joy that find their way to DVD...more often than not what I end up unearthing is the celluloid equivalent of a cow flop (like Dawn of the Mummy, which was also released in 1981), but when I do come across something truly decent, like this film, it makes up (to some extent) for a lot of my mucking about in the proverbial swill. Directed by Jeff Lieberman (Blue Sunshine, Squirm), the film features Gregg Henry (Payback), Chris `son of Jack' Lemmon (Wishmaster), Deborah Benson (Mutant on the Bounty), Ralph Seymour (Meatballs Part II), Jamie Rose (Chopper Chicks in Zombietown), Mike Kellin (Freebie and the Bean), and Hollywood veteran (also WWII veteran) George `Dragline' Kennedy (The Dirty Dozen, Cool Hand Luke, Airport 1975).

The film opens on a couple of hunters milling about in what appears to be an unused, dilapidated church deep in the woods. The younger of the two seems overly interested in procuring one of the antique lighting fixtures (a candle holder) as a gift for his wife (I guess she's easy to please), while the other, older man (Kellin) is more interested in getting his drink on and pretending to be a preacher...until he sees someone outside and decides to check it move, as the man still inside the church ends up getting a vasectomy via a machete (a machectomy?). The older man doesn't see this, but given the screaming and the appearance of a lumbering, slightly bestial looking character exiting from the church, he gets a good idea of what happened and takes off running. Then we cut to five young people in an RV, driving up the mountain to do a little camping, climbing and checking out of the area (apparently one of them actually inherited the mountain, as he keeps whipping his deed out, which means little to the local residents). The group encounters the local forestry man Roy McLean (Kennedy), and he issues an indiscriminate warning which they fail to heed, and keep on trucking up the dirt roads. Along the way they encounter the older, still alive hunter, who also warns them vigorously, but, as with the forestry man, they pay no mind...perhaps the third time would have been the charm, but guess what, there will be no such warning, as the `demon' (as the inbred locals call him) is king of this hill, and has little patience for interlopers (especially smart alecky city types).

First of all, can anyone who has seen this film tell me what George Kennedy's character was doing when we first saw him? He was in his modest outpost/home, and appeared to be involved in bizarre Frankenstein experiment in terms of splicing various types of plant life to each other (looked like a banzai tree and a maple leaf)...anyhoo...I really did enjoy this movie, as I think it had a lot going for it in terms of a talented director, and a particularly strong and experienced cast, both of which ended up elevating this slightly above much of the slasher/killer horror dreck that came out in the early 80s. There's a strong sense of flow throughout the story, like things are continuously moving forward, perhaps slowly at times, but nonetheless forward (we don't get a good look at the killer until about 40 minutes into the film, but his presence is felt throughout) terms of a slasher film the violence is relatively minimal, but what of it there is felt effective...others have stated this DVD release features some cuts (particularly in the opening sequence with the groinectomy), but this is the first time I've seen the film, so I'd have to take their word for it...if this is true (why would they lie?), then that's too bad, as I'd prefer to see a film as it was originally intended released, if possible. One of the many aspects I really liked was the usage of the Oregon mountains as a backdrop, as they provided some striking visuals and an interesting and spooky setting for the story. Some of the supporting characters were kinda one-dimensional (the hillbilly family, for example), but the more prominent characters made up for this, especially in terms of the actors being able to infuse very natural qualities within their characters. Also, George Kennedy's character was actually an effective one...generally in these types of films, the come late in the game law enforcement types (okay, he was a forest ranger) are usually lame duck fodder material whose only purpose is to extend the body count, but that's not the case here. Another aspect I really liked was the revelation of the killer (perhaps one of the best scenes in the film), as it wasn't overblown but done in a subtle manner...I pretty much guessed what was going on before it was revealed, but that didn't make it any less effective (a couple of hints were dropped earlier in the film, but nothing overtly obvious). I also appreciated the sort of transference of power near the end, where the seemingly weakest member of the group steps up, while the strongest member cowers in fear and shock. As far as the characters, did anyone else who saw this film think Warren (Henry) was whipped? And that Megan (Rose) sure was a flirty girl...with nice bazooms that we get to see as she takes a topless swim with her boyfriend Jonathan (Lemmon)...a little nekkidness never hurts...too bad Connie (Benson) didn't get in on that action, but she did don some Daisy Duke shorts later on in the film, and wore them very well (nice cheeks). I thought the ending odd, as Connie gave new meaning to the term `hand job'...I certainly didn't see that coming...

The anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) picture on this Media Blasters/Shriek Show DVD release is slightly sub-par...there's obvious wear throughout (dirt, lines, marred frames) and the colors sometimes flat, but it is watchable. I wasn't expecting a pristine copy, but I did feel they could have cleaned it up a bit. Regardless, I do appreciate someone taking the time to release this gem to DVD. The audio came through alright, but the claim of 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround Sound seemed dubious...also included is the original mono audio track. There are some special features, most on the 2nd DVD, including a commentary track by director Jeff Lieberman, cast and crew interviews (67:06), a photo gallery, and a whole mess of trailers, including Flesh for the Beast (2003), Lizard in a Woman's Skin (1971), Touch of Death (1961), Anthropophagus (2002), Choking Hazard (2004), Rojo sangre (2004), Hiruko the Goblin (1990), Plaga Zombie (1997), Shadow: Dead Riot (2005), and Death Trance (2005). All in all a mediocre release of a great film...4 stars for the film, 2 for the release, 3 stars overall.

A "Slice" of Mountain Hospitality
Michael R Gates | Nampa, ID United States | 08/01/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)

"1981's JUST BEFORE DAWN, Jeff Lieberman's entry in the horror's slasher sub-genre, is one of those nearly forgotten gems that is thankfully being resurrected and pushed back into the public eye by various home-video companies scrambling for DVD content. The movie has often been written off as one of those teens-in-the-woods flicks of the FRIDAY THE 13th ilk, but that's really not a fair assessment. Though the plot of the film does revolve around a small group of friends out on an excursion into the wilderness, the outstanding screenplay by Mark Arywitz and Gregg Irving; Lieberman's exceptional directing; a beautiful setting and atmosphere (it was filmed entirely outdoors at Silver Falls State Park in Silverton, Oregon); and competent performances from the group of relatively unknown young actors gives this film the gritty, rural-Americana realism that can best be described as TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE (1974) with a twist of DELIVERANCE (1972).

As with the aforementioned Tobe Hooper classic, the plot of JUST BEFORE DAWN is relatively simple. A small group of friends travel into the mountains to check out a tract of land there that his been inherited by one of the young men in the group. After being warned by a US Forest Ranger (expertly played by Hollywood veteran George Kennedy) stationed at the mountain base that traveling up the mountain isn't such a good idea, the young people nonetheless make their foray into the wilderness and soon find themselves inexplicably at odds with some of local mountain folk.

One of the things that sets JUST BEFORE DAWN above other teen slasher flicks of the 1980s is the fact that the city kids in this story are good kids who have a legitimate and respectable reason to be in the wilderness. They are there to check out property that they own and to do a bit of camping; they are not there to get drunk, smoke dope, or have a wild orgy. This makes the characters much more sympathetic than their snotty, disrespectful cinematic counterparts of the era, and that makes the cruelties they suffer all the more horrifying.

JUST BEFORE DAWN is not without its faults, and it does therefore contain a few of the slasher cliches (some fans of the sub-genre would call them requisites rather than cliches). Most notable of these is the T&A shot. When the kids are swimming in a small mountain lake, the beautiful redhead removes her bikini top to provide a few glimpses of bare breast. (The redhead is played by the luscious Jamie Rose, who had a short but successful career on television first as a regular on FALCON CREST, then later on ST. ELSEWHERE, before fading into bit parts on TV and in video and films.) However, this is carried out much more tastefully than in lesser films of the era, and it can be cogently argued that it is a natural part of the story rather than gratuitous nudity.

One other noticeable cliche in the film is the portrayal of the mountain residents, of whom the killer (or killers) is a member. They do seem to be a bit one-dimensional and cartoonish, as if they came straight from the panels of an old LIL' ABNER comic strip. But this is really only a minor flaw and does not detract too much from the overall realism and terror.

All in all, JUST BEFORE DAWN is one of the more competent offerings from the post-HALLOWEEN (1978) decade of slasher flicks. Even better than director Lieberman's other well-known films, it is not preachy like his campy cult classic BLUE SUNSHINE (1976), and it is grittier and much more realistic than his popular nature-run-amok horror flick SQUIRM (1976). Horror fans and slasher aficionados alike should seek it out for their collections.

The two-disc DVD release from Media Blasters is the best version of JUST BEFORE DAWN released to date. It offers a good digital transfer of the film in anamorphic widescreen, though it is obvious from scratches and wear marks throughout that the film wasn't given much by way of restoration. Still, the color is good and the picture is crisp. By way of extras, there is a running commentary with director Lieberman, as well as a second disc chockfull of goodies like featurettes and interviews with cast and crew. Well worth the cost of admission."
Can't Wait for the DVD Release!
Gary Young | Tucson, AZ USA | 05/11/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Wow! I'm really looking foward to the release of this forgotten slasher gem on DVD. My old VHS copy that I recorded from late night TV many years ago bit the dust a couple of years back, so a DVD release was just what I had been hoping for.
"Just Before Dawn" follows a group of young campers on their trek deep into the mountains where they are stalked by a bloodthirsty killer. Yeah... I know, typical horror movie plot. But "Just Before Dawn" perfects the formula. Above average in both the acting and directing departments, this one offers plenty of scares too. As well as a major plot twist that you may or may not see coming.
If you're a fan of the slasher sub-genre "Just Before Dawn" is a must see. The body count is nowhere near as high as "Friday the 13th pt. whatever", but it more than makes up for it in every other department."