I'm a huge fan of "Just Before Dawn," so I was positively elated when I bought the recent excellent Shriekshow DVD and found out it comes complete with a bonus disc featuring a very engrossing and comprehensive 66 minute retrospective documentary on this fine fright film. You wouldn't expect a relatively obscure and overlooked movie like this one to get the special deluxe treatment, which is reason alone to give Shriekshow props for making this bang-up featurette.
Among the people interviewed in this documentary are director/co-screenwriter Jeff Lieberman, producer David Sheldon, screenwriter Mark L. Arywitz, composer Brad Fiedel, and actors Chris Lemmon, Jamie Rose, and John Hunsaker. I'm a big admirer of Lieberman, so naturally I quite enjoyed his comments, especially his analogy likening horror movies to rock'n'roll music and how he came up with the idea for that truly shocking ending. He also explains how the arm down the throat gag was actually done and openly admits "Deliverance" was a key influence on the film. Arywitz's comments were likewise quite interesting and admirably candid, although I must admit that the original concept of making the hillbilly family out to be a bunch of crazed snake worshipers sounds pretty dreadful. Chris Lemmon and the marvelously radiant Jamie Rose provide lots of lively and enjoyable anecdotes. I give Mr. Lemmon bonus points for doing his own very dangerous stunt. Ms. Rose deserves credit for her topless scene (the behind-the-scenes story on that one is an absolute hoot!) and rightfully gets appraisal from producer David Sheldon for her superlative acting in the church scene where her character gets killed by one of the deranged mountain twins.
I'm a big Brad Fiedel fan as well (he's a very good and underrated film composer in my humble opinion), so his comments on his splendidly spare'n'spooky score were most entertaining and illuminating. All those above cited folks certainly make this doc worthwhile, but the guy I personally have to single out as the single most delightful interview subject is John Hunsaker, who played the two psycho rednecks in the film. He strikes me as a very sweet, gentle and amiable fellow, which is totally the radical opposite of the terrifying maniacs he convincingly portrays in the film. Overall, this is one of the best retrospective film documentaries I have recently seen. Fans of "Just Before Dawn" should really enjoy it. I know I did. Keep up the great work Shriekshow!
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