Dawn (2003)

Reviewed by Michelle Lee

Starring Ray Boucher, Kacie Young, Mindy Raymond, Jay Reel

Directed by Jay Reel

The story of a 10-year-old vampire may seem gimmicky but Dawn manages to bring more to the screen than just another way to tell a vampire tale.

Dawn and her father John exist. And in the short meantimes people like them manage to find, they’ve built a bond of father and daughter, a simultaneously frail and tough as nails bond that is the one constant as they drift from one town to the next. They’re not running from anyone specific, but they’re staying ahead of those who might discover Dawn’s secret. She is part vampire, part human, though her qualities definitely lean in the direction of bloodsucker. Her vampiric mother died while giving birth, leaving Dawn in the hands of her unsure, yet loving father.

Dawn and her father have no one but each other and this sets the tone for the film and the events that lead up to its inevitably somber conclusion. Shot in black in white, Dawn has a stark feeling of melancholic joy: Dawn and her father are enough to keep each other going, but they’re also what keep each other down.

I have to say my curiosity was initially piqued simply because one of the stars of the movie happened to be a child, and Kacie Young’s performance is quite endearing. She and actor Ray Boucher have a poignant chemistry together and they move the story along nicely, however, I should also add that there were some smaller roles in the film that were not handled as well as Young’s and Boucher’s, and these performances do add a little lag to the overall enjoyability of Dawn.

Clocking in at just over 85 minutes, there’s also a slight lack of tight storytelling going on. Creeping up before the halfway mark, the plot takes a turn back for an enjoyable, yet overlong flashback, introducing Dawn’s mother Sarah. Mindy Raymond is great as Dawn’s mother and for the most part I really enjoyed the story of how she and John met and how Dawn came into the world, but ultimately it was just too long. There’s also a “history of vampires in this movie” speech, given by Sarah that I felt was completely unnecessary.

The characteristics of the vampire lore in Dawn are fairly easy to pick up on, and little things left unsaid (such as why they die and where the immortality myth came from) aren’t going to keep you up at night. The basic issue is, if you’re going to explain one or two or three things, why not everything? And while this slowed the momentum, have no fear, it didn’t kill it.

There are some very memorable scenes throughout the picture, particularly a scene with Dawn in a rare interaction with other children. This moment shines on who and what Dawn really is and works as a dismal precursor to the film’s last act, another excellent scene that’s quiet, mature, and although you can see it coming, still emotionally draining.

3 out of 5

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