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Home | Film Reviews | Film Review: The Darkest Dawn (2016)

Film Review: The Darkest Dawn (2016)

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The story of two sisters, as Britain descends into an alien apocalypse.


There’s a switcheroo played out in The Darkest Dawn, the second feature from British director Drew Casson. A switcheroo that undermines the film and its characters. In particular, the women. It’s a switcheroo that could have been easily been avoided. But let’s start from the beginning.

The Darkest Dawn is a found footage feature, co-written by Casson, told from the point of view of 16-year-old Chloe (Bethan Mary Leadley), an aspiring journalist. Starting from the moment she receives her new camera on her birthday, we see the young Woodward/Bernstein performing fluffy ‘news’ pieces to camera. All very cute and schmaltzy. And then from out of literally nowhere, aliens invade and start blowing off people’s heads.

One minute, mum has to go off for an important meeting, the next minute, Daddy’s head has popped off via the application of alien bug to skull. It really is that quick.

Meanwhile, Chloe’s entire street has been decimated by a crashed passenger plane and a large alien craft is ploughing through the sky taking out anything and everything with the force of a rushed narrative. In the madness, Chloe and her elder sister, Sam (Cherry Wallis), are taken in by a stranger who, unfortunately, turns out to be a raving maniac and uses the girls as his personal slaves. It was at this point that thoughts to turn whether The Darkest Dawn was turning from a potential sci-fi flick into a dank psychological thriller. After all, it should be stipulated that the carnage witnessed at the beginning of The Darkest Dark is incredibly impressive for a film of such limited budget. If Casson wanted to change gears and save himself some money, that’s his prerogative.

Alas no. Instead, a feeling of being tricked begins to overtake the viewer. As if somehow, someone was about to play the old switcheroo on you. (See, there’s that word again) As Chloe and Sam’s captor becomes more aggressive, the girls are saved by a band of not-so-merry men led by the enigmatic Cowen, played by Casson himself. From the moment of their arrival, The Darkest Dawn ceases to be about a young woman trying to survive in a hostile environment, ala The 5th Wave. Instead, it becomes about Cowen and his men trying to find their lost friend Phil. In fact, to this viewer, it was clear that the sisters were being pushed in to the background of their own story. So much so, that Chloe may as well have a credit as cameraman.

‘Why did this happen?’ I hear you ask. Well, unbeknownst to this viewer – and likely others who have seen the film – The Darkest Dawn is in actuality a sequel to Casson’s previous film, Hungerford. In that film we’re introduced to Cowen, his friends and their fight for survival against the invading alien hordes. Remember when I said above that the invasion seemed really quick? Seems all the ground work had been laid out in the previous chapter of this tale. And that’s what is so grating about The Darkest Dawn. Unless you went searching for the information, there’s nothing to forewarn the viewer that they’re watching a sequel.

To be fair, Cowan does give a brief recap to Chloe about what’s been happening, but The Darkest Dawn loses something once she and her sister step aside for the messiah that is Cowan. The film becomes nothing more than traipsing around abandoned tunnels and buildings whilst everyone looks miserable. That is until they finally stumble across a group of soldiers who have decided that the normal rules of society no longer apply to them, AKA the third act of 28 Days Later. They kidnap Sam and, as is heavily hinted, routinely rape her. And that’s where any interest I had in the film evaporated. It was one thing to push the few female characters you have into the background, but to pull them out so they can be used as a tragic plot divice to further push Cowen’s story arc forward… Well, we’re in women in refrigerator territory.

Granted, this is a sequel and Casson feels there’s mileage in the tale of his onscreen counterpart, but The Darkest Dawn would have been more engaging, and palatable, if he had made himself the co-star of the film and let his young protagonists have some agency. The Darkest Dawn ends on a cliff-hanger that hints heavily at Casson wanting to make this a trilogy. And whilst he’s clearly talented, it would be advantageous of him to not make his next feature feel like such a vanity project.


  1. SteelScissorsInYourSkull

    “They kidnap Sam and, as is heavily hinted, routinely rape her. And that’s where any interest I had in the film evaporated.”

    It was at this point that my interest in the review evaporated. Politically correct morality is out of place in a horror film and equally so in the review of one. Those with delicate sensibilities would be better served by Disney’s output.

    • Tyler Bateman

      Yes. That’s how it works. Not wanting rape in a horror means you can only watch Disney. Science!

      • SteelScissorsInYourSkull

        No, the way it works is that horror is a genre delving into fear, darkness, inhumanity to man etc.. Sane, civilized people oppose real world rape and would never perform that act. Unfortunately it does happen because not everyone is either sane or civilized.

        What we should want to avoid is allowing our morality to foster censorship and a refusal to confront unpleasant things. Horror is a genre of extremes and telling it’s creators they’re not allowed to visit specific subject matter cripples the creative process and harms the genre as a whole. You can’t make the world an entirely safe place and trying to make our movies that way does humanity no credit.

        There will always be people who are unwilling or unable to confront darker subjects. Those people are better off steering clear of the horror genre rather than demanding it be neutered so they can avoid offense.

        P.S. Science involves systematic study and experimentation. If you’re going to be cleverly ironic you might want to work on the clever part first.

    • I started losing interest when I read the word “whilst”. What is it with Brits?

  2. The reviewer needs to watch this again and get his facts right. It is not sam that is kidnapped and it is hinted early in it is a sequel to Hungerford

  3. It’s difficult to determine whether the acting is horrific or they are doing all they can with terrible dialog. The editing and camera work seem to show promise but there is little chance someone could become involved in the story when there are so few scenes where the story seems to flow naturally.

  4. To be fair, literally every piece of press about this movie was about how it’s a sequel. But why would I expect a movie critic to keep up on what films are what?

  5. I have a question and have not been able to find an answer. So, in Hungerford, they use aerosol deodorant to force the parasites from the hosts. That storyline is completely absent from The Darkest Dawn. Does anyone have a theory about that?

  6. christine beans

    I don’t know who this person is that is reviewing the film but clearly they don’t know anything about sci-fi OR about the fact that this was a SEQUEL so it was never really about the sisters in the first place. If anything, I loved the way the sisters story helped pick up from where the first movie left off with a little twist. And, yeah, I didn’t love the ‘insinuation’ about one of the sisters being raped or that the other was killed for apparently no reason at all BUT shit happens. Again, it wasn’t really meant to be about only them. And, if someone were to really have a reason to give up on the movie, all I can say is that I was gratefull that there were no actual rape scenes and that it was something better left as just dialogue. Seeing it would probably have made me feel like abandoning it. IMO there isnt ever a good reason to portray rape in any movie or tv show in detail. That being said, I thought this movie was a great sequel. I really hope there is another one. I love the characters. I was so upset that we lost Adam though. Why couldn’t they lose Pip instead? He contributed nothing to the storyline.

  7. It was hinted early on to be a sequel, with the story being shown from the view of Chloe, who is also the sister who was kidnapped. The story of the sisters was background, and a side story in the overall story that began in Hungerford and then continued in The Darkest Dawn. I would also like to point out your mention of Chloe being implied to be routinely raped, while it was implied to be something that took place, it couldn’t actually be a routine occurrence with her being absent for at most two days.

    Overall, it seems that you had went into this movie with no understanding, and no desire to understand, the narrative being explored. That upon realizing that the story was in fact not about the sisters you decided to stop paying attention, to the point you didn’t even bother to correct your inaccurate statement regarding which sister was kidnapped, and then went on a social justice warrior crusade because it continued the story, instead of focusing on the side-story of the sisters, even going so far as to all but condemn a film for implying a very real possibility that could occur in a lawless society, even though it was done in a more tasteful manner than some other films set in similar backdrops.

    • Severence Spookyname

      At most only two days….

      You’re right. He definitely got that wrong. Rapists only rape once a day, TOPS. To suggest otherwise is maniacal.

  8. I want one hour fifteen minutes of my life back.

  9. The SJW Critic (Apparently)

    Reading the backlash to people defending rape in a film is filling. I shalln’t be needing my dinner tonight.

    Enjoy your average sci fi film.


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