An unknown killer, clad in World War II U.S. Army fatigues, stalks a small New Jersey town bent on reliving a 35 year-old double murder by focusing on a group of college kids holding an annual Spring Dance.
Five campers arrive in the mountains to examine some property they have bought, but are warned by the forest ranger Roy McLean that a huge machete-wielding maniac has been terrorising the area. Ignoring the warnings, they set up camp, and start disappearing one by one. If that sounds too run-of-the-mill, there's a genuinely shocking plot twist half-way through... Written by
Michael Brooke <email@example.com>
'Just Before Dawn' is one rare slasher that has impressed me every time I watched it. The reason lies in its penetrative and intense backwoods atmosphere that disturbs me deeply. Jeff Lieberman has always applied a simple but methodical approach to make the viewers uneasy. His 'Blue Sunshine' could be classified as both simple and bizarre at the same time. The antagonists of Lieberman's films often suffer from anguish and kill for the sake of enjoyment. The creepy and campy atmosphere, persistent sound of the nearby waterfall, and finally the above average performances by Gregg Henry, Chris Lemmon, Jamie Rose and Deborah Benson give this movie a constant momentum avoiding any element of boredom. The film has very less gore and almost no nudity, making this perfect by all means. One can bet that Lieberman doesn't want to make his creation famous with the help of nudity and gore, so the lovers of these stuffs would be somewhat disappointed. On the contrary, the movie seems inspired by the atmosphere of John Boorman's legendary 1972 film 'Deliverance', that involves hillbillies somewhat similarly. However, this doesn't make JBD a copy cat as it teems with originality and deploys a simple plot to please and astound the viewers.
Two hunters Ty (Mike Kellin) and Vachel (Charles Bartlett) are out in the woods drinking and exploring an old abandoned church after a successful hunting trip. The men are in high spirits when Ty catches the look of a horrendous man (John Hunsaker) looking down at them through the roof hole. Ty leaves Vachel behind to trace the man down, but is shocked when his truck rolls towards him and he barely escapes injury. We soon witness a grisly figure cutting Vachel open to the groin with a serrated machete. The figure menacingly laughs while Vachel cries in pain. Ty watches in horror when he finds the figure putting on Vachel's clothes and looking at him with fiery eyes. The scene soon cuts to Warren (Gregg Henry), Constance (Deboraeh Benson), Daniel (Ralph Seymour), Jonathan (Chris Lemmon), and Megan (Jamie Rose), who are in a camper heading towards the wilderness to have a great camping adventure. On the way they are warned by the forest ranger Roy (George Kennedy) about the dangers of the wild. Roy persuades them to go back but meets no success. Ahead they meet Ty, who is out of his breath, drinking and trembling. In a palsied voice, Ty narrates his horrible experience to the teens and urges them to take him along. The teens however refuse his request and set out to the woods. Ty, left behind, gives a satirical laugh while he watches the grisly man climb up Warren's camper.
The teens camp at a remarkably serene location filled with the constant sound of waterfall and packed with lush greenery. Everything seems to be as normal as any other camping excursion with an exception of a perverted killer, who is constantly on the trail of his young preys. That night they are disrupted when a local old man (Hap Oslund) comes along with his family holding a gun, and furiously advises the teens to leave at once because he thinks that they are doing no good in the wild than 'raising the devil'. The youngsters pay no heed to the old man's words and continue camping. Next day, Jonathan becomes the first target of the hillbilly, who cuts down the rope bridge forcibly facilitating Jonathan's fall. Soon Megan and Daniel become his targets, when they are stabbed in the old church. Finally, Warren and Constance are left with no option than to face their enemy.....or enemies? Well, there are so many twins around here!
JBD is a great effort by Jeff Lieberman, and I personally find it more interesting and menacing than other backwoods tales like Sleepaway Camp, Cabin Fever and even Evil Dead, which all try to intensify the horror aspect with the aid of explicit gore. Surprisingly, JBD is very mediocre on gore. Here the viewers are afraid to see the clash between two different cultures, the one inculcated in the city while the other tamed in woods. Like 'The Shining', JBD has some amount of hypnotic qualities, which I suppose are due to the breathtaking locations, the placidity of nature and the fear of wilderness. JBD really comes at par with the other horror gems of 1981 like 'Dead & Buried', 'Dark Night of the Scarecrow', 'The Burning' and 'The Beyond' in terms of horror. 10/10 for Mr. Lieberman!
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