JUST BEFORE DAWN (1981)

Directed By: Jeff Lieberman
Written By: Gregg Irving, Joseph Middleton & Mark Arywitz
Cinematography: Joel King & Dean King 
Editor: Robert Olovett 

Cast: George Kennedy, Gregg Henry, Chris Lemmon, Mike Kellin, Deborah Rush, Ralph Seymour, Katie Powell, John Hunsacker, Charles Bartlett, Jamie Rose 

Five campers arrive in the mountains to examine some property they have bought, but are warned by Forest Ranger Roy McLean that a huge machete-wielding maniac has been terrorizing the area. Ignoring the warnings, they set up camp, and start disappearing one by one.


Wish I had seen this film before WRONG TURN. As the film seems influenced by it. While the film goes along you can see where a bunch of other horror films might have found influence in this film. Just as others might accuse this film of being influenced by THE HILLS HAVE EYES. 

Though this is a good starter horror film for anyone who wants to take baby steps into the genre and a perfect example of a film that is filled with cliches that it itself helped to build. With an impressive cast. 

The film has an early kill that then sets the playing field for the rest of the film and the characters.

The film is violent but surprisingly not gory or too violent. As the violence ends up showing some aftermath or suggested violence. So that it is a bit more reserved.

Though for it’s a more reserved matter. There is nudity but luckily the film isn’t as sex-obsessed as many in the genre and at the time. 

The film has a lower budget. So some effects are not quite great but good enough for the material considering the limits. Especially with its unconventional ending. 

The film gets a lot of use out of actor Chris Lemmon and his body. 

As the film goes along the victims Are humanized. Even if they are not stellar members of society they Don’t Deserve some of their fates. 

During the film it is quite understandable for the characters’ breakdown but their decisions are questionable. Though one element that becomes strong and sets the film apart is the hero and damsel in distress. Seems to switch roles as far as mentality towards the end. 

As she starts to put make-up on. It ends up being her war paint and bait. Though strange at first that she would get flirtatious after surviving an attack in which her boyfriend left her alone. Though at the endpoint he has been on his Way there to mentally deny and break down since the first body was discovered. So that he by the end is almost a shell of what he used to be. 

Which comes across as karma for earlier actions. Such as hitting a deer and lying about his fate and letting a survivor of an attack go with no real thought or concern. 

The one true surprise is the eventual reveal of the murder’s origins.

Grade: C+