One big issues for reviewers is; how much of the plot to reveal? Even the most delicately written review gives away much of the first 30 mins, and that’s often the best part of the film, particularly if you have zero knowledge of what’s coming from the start. So we’ll have several stages of spoiler alerts for Dawn Breaks Behind the Eyes, largely because I’d be keen for prospective viewers to have exactly the experience I got, which was, at peak times, electrifying.
So let’s kick off with the synopsis supplied, verbatim ‘Margo, who comes from a noble family, inherited a castle that she inspects with her ill-tempered husband Dieter. When they arrive at the run-down keep, their relationship is put to a test as their sanity slowly deteriorates. This opens up a new world. As time and space begin to shift around them, a reality that only exists within the walls of the eerie building is exposed – a reality full of warmth and excess.’ After about half and hour, I was pretty happy that this summary matched what I was watching. Margo (Luisa Taraz) and Dieter (Frederik von Lüttichau) explore the potentially haunted castle, it’s all very Mario Bava, moody, atmospheric, elliptical, and a stately slice of restrained horror that…
…suddenly changes in a way that, if you’re paying attention, will suddenly knock you out of your seat with an abrupt twist. That twist is foreshadowed: there’s a smattering of throwaway shots that don’t fit the jigsaw puzzle, but are not to be discounted. We keep seeing people, possibly ghosts, that interrupt the story, and a bespectacled man watching through what looks like a letterbox; the man looks a lot like British comedian Harry Hill, additionally confusing for audiences who know him. So what TF is actually going on?
So Spoiler Alert for casual readers; Margo and Dieter are characters in a film, and we suddenly detour with a hairpin spin into a different reality, where the cast and crew of a horror film are tripping balls on acid as they hold their wrap party in the same castle. The shift is marked by a moment of shocking, although clearly fake violence, but the effect is disorientating in the extreme. Trigger warnings for violence are still required, even if the trick is finally revealed to be a playful one.
Dawn Breaks Behind the Eyes doesn’t overstay its welcome at 73 minutes, but it’s an ingenious, original film that’s hard to pin down. It’s not straight horror, and doesn’t relay on gore, but it’s certainly a dark and threatening piece. But if you want an adrenalin rush, writer director Kevin Kopacka’s film packs one hell of a punch; I’m still reeling from this one days later, and a cult following awaits…
Dawn Breaks Behind the Eyes comes to US Digital Platforms from June 24, 2022.
Thanks to Dark Sky Films for access.