Dawn of the Deaf (Short, 2016)

Dawn of the Deaf PosterStarring Emily Bevan, Haley Bishop, Stephen Collins

Directed by Rob Savage

Screened at FrightFest 2016

Seeking to deliver a unique perspective on the zombie apocalypse, director Rob Savage enlists the assistance of London’s deaf acting community to create his 12-minute concept short, Dawn of the Deaf.

Playing out as something of an eye-opening urban drama for much of its runtime, Dawn of the Deaf delivers a highly respectful insight into the strained daily experiences of the UK’s deaf population – chronicling, with tight yet naturalistic cinematography, a deaf couple at a vulnerable point in their relationship, a young deaf woman suffering sexual abuse and a deaf man accepting a community spirit award.

All three are effective narrative arcs, which are admirably played out to their various conclusions within the short running time of the piece – the frankly fantastic cast selling every despondent, frustrated and elated moment through facial expressions, sign language and speech.

And then the horror hits. An ear-shattering signal sees the non-impaired population drop dead, blood gushing from their heads. Moments later, they rise… with a ravenous appetite for human flesh.

Savage doesn’t dwell on the carnage (though there is a bit of impressive effects work) – instead, he does a stellar job of injecting each of his characters’ scenarios with the undead in truly frightening ways. It’s chilling to see two deaf individuals so engaged in an argument with each other that they simply don’t notice the fact that everyone around them has dropped dead, and the other setups are equally toe-curling.

As the horde closes in and the old-school titles spread across the screen, there’s no room to doubt Savage as a filmmaker to watch out for – a man with a keen eye, something to say and a terrifying concept within which to say it. Dawn of the Deaf is an extremely strong calling card – earnest, respectful horror and signal of a socially aware filmmaker determined to make zombies scary again.

I say bring on a feature edition.

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Gareth Jones

Copywriter and critic sporting a lifelong obsession with all things horror. A little bit sane.

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