92 user 59 critic

Just Before Dawn (1981)

Five young people venture into the backwoods of Oregon to claim a property, and find themselves being stalked by a hulking, machete-wielding psychopath.


Jeff Lieberman


Mark Arywitz (screenplay), Jeff Lieberman (screenplay) (as Gregg Irving) | 1 more credit »




Complete credited cast:
George Kennedy ... Roy McLean
Mike Kellin ... Ty
Chris Lemmon ... Jonathan
Gregg Henry ... Warren
Deborah Benson ... Constance
Ralph Seymour ... Daniel
Katie Powell ... Merry Cat Logan (as Kati Powell)
John Hunsaker ... Mountain Twins
Charles Bartlett ... Vachel
Jamie Rose ... Megan
Hap Oslund Hap Oslund ... Pa Logan
Barbara Spencer Barbara Spencer ... Ma Logan


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 terrorising the area. Ignoring the warnings, they set up camp, and start disappearing one by one. Written by Michael Brooke <michael@everyman.demon.co.uk>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


The nightmare has just begun See more »


Horror | Thriller


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »

Did You Know?


The first draft of the script that would become this movie was written in 1978, and originally titled "The Tennessee Mountain Murders". The script went through rigorous revisions (and two title changes) before being filmed. See more »


When the group is coming to their destination, it's shown shown they are going downhill, but when you look at the sides of the van while they are driving, it appears they are driving on flat terrain. See more »


[after Warren and Jonathan scare the group]
Daniel: I knew it was you guys all along.
Jonathan: Oh come on Dan you were more freaked out than the girls.
Daniel: I just wasn't sure it was you.
Jonathan: So you peed your pants to play it safe, huh?
See more »

Alternate Versions

The 2006 UK DVD released by Odeon Entertainment features an alternate version of the film. This has 9 extra minutes never in any US version. What is listed below is a comparison of the DVD with the US Paragon tape as that is the longest edition released Stateside. Everything on here does not appear in the US version unless otherwise noted. Although not always listed, quite a number of music cues are missing or different between the UK and US scenes 1. After the credit "directed by Jeff Lieberman", we see two brief seconds of the woods and an extended opening scene when it shows the cabin/church. 2 More dialogue appears in the church before Ty (the hiker) goes outside the door 3 Huge amount of extra footage appears when the campers are going up to the camp site. The US version edits this scene very differently 4 When Warren goes outside to check for the hit deer, the scene is extended 5. When they get to the camp site, getting out of the camper and the first few seconds at the waterfall are extended 6 After the first visit to the waterfall, extended footage of them walking 7 Extended footage during camp fire and added audio effect not present in US version (you can actually hear the sound the campers react to. In the US version they just turn their heads in the direction of the noise you cannot hear). 8. The next morning, Warren walking towards Connie by the waterfall is extended 9. Extended footage when they see Merry Kat (Mountain girl) singing by the waterfall 10. Crossing the rope bridge is extended and adds music not in the US version 11. After crossing the rope bridge, extended footage of them going down the hill to the bottom of the waterfall 12. UK version cuts out the entire sequence of when the killer goes into the water and grabs Megan. The UK version cuts back into the middle of the camp fire party 13. Extended footage of them dancing at the party 14. Extended footage after the Mountain family shoots the radio 15. Slight extra footage during breakfast the next day 16. Slight extra footage when Merry Kat runs from Jonathan in the woods 17. Extra footage of Merry Kat running away when Jonathan is on the rope bridge 18. Jonathan trying to climb up the rope has a point of view shot that appears in the US version and not the UK. 19. Jonathan falling back into the water: splash extended and this goes into extra footage of Warren and Connie by the river (US version goes directly to Daniel in the graveyard instead) 20 Extended scene when Warren and Connie discuss how Jonathan could have died 21. UK version cuts down the Mountain family beating Merry Kat after the Ranger's visit. The UK version then cuts back into when Connie is already standing after hearing the deer whistle See more »


Referenced in The Woods Have Eyes (2007) See more »


Heart Of Glass
Written by Debbie Harry and Chris Stein
Performed by Blondie
©(1979) Courtesy of Chrysalis Records, A Division of EMI
Under License from EMI-Capitol Music Special Markets
See more »

User Reviews

Frightening and bizarrely compelling
27 August 2000 | by ehoshawSee all my reviews

Very scary backwoods slasher is much better than others, such as "The Prey" and some of the later "Friday the 13th" sequels. The story has to do with five teenager campers running afoul of a pair of psychotic, machete-wielding hillbilly twins. One by one they are dispatched by the murderous giants (who giggle as they slaughter their prey). This has some great photography of the Oregon wilderness, a creepy musical score, and some of the best shocks ever put into a horror/slasher film. I really enjoy the scene where Daniel and Megan are menaced by one of the killers. A classic that deserves a video re-release. I actually stumbled across this one for four bucks at a resale shop in Northern Michigan.

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Release Date:

27 November 1981 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Just Before Dawn See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


| (extended cut)

Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

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