Just Before Dawn (1982)

By 1982, the 'killer in the woods' plot had already been played out and had become cliche. Just Before Dawn stepped in and managed to offer something unique and different while following the same basic Slasher structure without the pitfalls of self-awareness or self-parody. The introduction of the characters and slow, steady build maintains a sense of realism through the naturally flowing dialogue and common daily activities that disarm the audience into a suspension of disbelief. This is where I feel the film succeeds over the similarly themed Wrong Turn, which places its characters in several situations that exit the realm of believability. There are several scenes that generate a high level of suspense, created through the creative framing and lighting as well as a backwoods terror that has been handed down from Deliverance. The unfriendly locals also feel rooted in reality, as opposed to the super-human qualities inherent in Slasher favorites like Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees. Even so, the twins prove to be very menacing in their sheer bulk and brutal violence. Now, while there are many things the film does well, it is also a very slow paced ride, and as a Slasher flick the deaths are all pretty tame. It offers superior filmmaking to many of the cheap imitators of the time, but in all its seriousness it just isnt as fun as most of the peak Slashers. It is worth seeking out for any Slasher fans, just not a favorite of mine. A group of teens are stalked by a demented family at their campsite deep within the woods of a National Park.

Rating: 8/10.
Entertainment: 7/10.
Gore: 6/10.

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  1. But it's directed by Jeff Leiberman! The man directed Squirm for God's sake! Squirm! The greatest worms invading the human sphere movie EVER! Squirm!

  2. I dont dare post my review of Squirm lol.. I need to give the film a second shot before making a final opinion on it! I like Just Before Dawn, but I just dont like it nearly as much as many other fans.

  3. I LOVE this movie -- so great. And the ending is wonderful -- one of my favorites in the genre. The way character stereotypes are played with here is fascinating to watch.

  4. The Media Blasters 2 disc set is cut. It's missing the one truly gory sequence in the film. At the beginning, you see a close up of one of the inbreds stabbing the worker in the groin with his serrated machete and pulling it out with blood and grue going everywhere.

    If you can find the old Paragon tape, it's complete. Apparently, there wasn't a print around that was complete, or possibly MB didn't know about the missing few seconds of film till afterwards.

    There's also a fan edit floating around that incorporates a large number of extra and alternate sequences bringing the film close to two hours long if I remember right.

  5. I actually saw that there is a cheapie three pack that has the unedited version available as well, if you search it on DVDAF it will come up as the only other release