I think I can also speak for Sam that, when we were in college (remember those days, Sam), the last thing on our minds was going into the woods to look for aliens or hairy rugs of the Bigfoot variety. High School was a bitch for us both and college was a weekly proctological exam. So what in the hell is with the ne’er-do-well kids with all the free time to curiosity seek in the woods? Yeah, we know: their thesis paper, etc., bla, bla, and yada, yada. Which is why Sam and I leaned towards the artistic: both visual and written. No cramming on law journals or dissecting or field trips. It was art tables and typewriters and radio studios for us. For nature outside: bad. VCR movie-womb room (with turntables and vinyl): good. And thanks to those VCR binges, we know better: going to the woods in a cabin with friends for an isolated vacation, well, you just end up possessed. Or infected. Or dead. Or worse.
So here we are. And it’s real.
We dig Bruce Wemple, who gave us a pretty cool pair of wooded-mystery steamers with Monstrous (a Bigfoot) and The Retreat (an Indian-myth Wendigo). And he’s giving us a double-dose in Dawn of the Beast. So, it’s sort of a sequel-trilogy. It’s like those ongoing Kaiju movies of old, with one film building onto another, with a creature from one film tag-teaming in the next, as the films keep getting bigger and better as they progress.
In the streaming-21st century — with the Canon Reds and other digital devices — it’s the slasher ’80s all over again. In either era: You’re a new-to-game filmmaker who wants to tell stories. You don’t have the budget to “go big” like the big studios, with fancy sets and props. So, you head off into the woods: the sets are cheap and bountiful. And Wemple uses those wooden environs to his advantage with a skill-set that always gives us an engaging story.
So, those students with their Bigfoot obsession head off into the Northeastern wood, known for its “strange creature sightings,” natch. And the “strange creatures” are double the terror: our Mystery Machine gang not only runs afoul of Bigfoot, but the spiritual Indian creature, a Wendigo. The ancient creature, wooden battle royale, with the kids caught in the middle, ensues (oops, lazy writing, again!).
As you can tell from the film stills, Bruce Wemple has really upped his game: the makeups and effects are against-the-budget stellar. Wendigos, Bigfoots, and Raimi demon possession. Oh, my! Auntie Em! Toto!
Good stuff, once again, Mr. Wemple. Keep ’em comin’!
While we didn’t officially review either for the site, be sure to also stream Wemple’s two previous, upper New York State-based indie-features, After Hours (2016) and Lake Artifact (2019). The welcomed and dependable Anna Shields, who starred in those two films, as well as Monstrous, stars — and pens Dawn of the Beast. Her co-star, Grant Schumacher, also returns from Lake Artifact, Monstrous, and The Retreat. Needless to say, they’re excellent, as always.
Uncork’d Entertainment will release Dawn of the Beast to digital platforms and DVD on April 6, 2021.
Disclaimer: We were sent a screener by the distributor’s P.R firm. That has no bearing on our review.