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At Dawn They Sleep (2000)
Writer and director: Brian Paulin

review by Tony Lee

Homicidal drug dealers Stephen and Ian endure the miseries of their unhealthy morning after a weird night of sex with two women of the 'angel' persuasion. Shaking off their perplexing illness, the lads confront a ruthless skinhead and some vengeful gangland rivals, and a shootout ensues, during which Steve gets wounded. Oddly, he's apparently unscathed except for spasms, lethargy and dizziness, and Steve recuperates at home with similarly afflicted buddy Ian, yet they eventually succumb to cocooned transformation into even greater blood crazed maniacs than before. Later, the winged babes return just in time to reveal that one night of passion has turned Steve and Ian into vampires, and now they must destroy mankind and create a heaven on Earth for the pouty angels (always resentful of god's favouritism for humanity - yes, it's that 'biblical' plotline, again, best explored in The Prophesy trilogy, started by Gregory Widen in 1995). But as if vampires and angels weren't enough 'fantasy' tropes for one indie flick, the filmmakers throw a hideous demon into the mix, offering Steve 'true' immortality in spirit form if he changes sides to rage against the angels...

At Dawn They Sleep was made by, practically, a three-man crew. Writer and director Brian Paulin did the music score, created the special makeup effects, and plays Steve. His co-star, Rich George, portrays Ian, and supervised the stunts. Eli Connors shares producer and cinematographer credits with Paulin and George, and co-edited the results with Paulin. Perhaps having all three on camera duty was a mistake, as the standard 4:3 framing of shots is inconsistent and no clearly identifiable drift emerges from the clumsy surges of imagery. The Dolby 2.0 soundtrack is gratingly variable at best, and the largely senseless action scenes offer much leaping about and gunplay - but to almost no dramatic impact at all, leaving only a few supposedly 'cool' poses (with pairs of nine-mil autos blazing, half-mocking the approved 'John Woo manner' of depicting such ultra-violence), to distinguish this from other low-budget thrillers.

Zombie sex, baby eating, lesbian nuns, burning churches, and a quasi-apocalyptic red-rain storm montage mark the limits of this movie's transgressive visuals and gore-happy happenings. Paulin's heavy-handed direction manages the bemusing trick of making each 'jolt' turgidly gruesome and preposterously overambitious at the same time. And yet, the unexpected appearance of that grim evildoer-recruitment monster (seemingly derived from 'Darkness' from Ridley Scott's Legend, but here created without sufficient funding for the body-work involved), and its edifying speech about the tyranny of angels, ensures At Dawn They Sleep is never boring, despite occasionally mistaking somnambulistic pacing for a broodingly mysterious atmosphere. With its propensity for splatter, blue-filtered astral plane tableaux (where smoke obscured grimaces infer supernatural night flight) and disconcerting gaffes (female nudity discloses the fact that at least one 'angel' doesn't have an all-over tan), Paulin's cheap but effective shot-on-video shocker embraces the antiheroes' savagely nihilistic rampage on their quest for redemptive glory. It eagerly plumbs the depths and heights of genre motifs for inspiration and borrows from grisly Hong Kong comic fantasies; Sam Raimi styled slimy meltdowns, and Clive Barker's portentously wicked monster movies.

Considering the main feature is a paltry hour and a quarter, there's abundant space for bonus stuff on this DVD, and what you get is a batch of adverts for old and new horrors, studio and indie flicks, including trailers for the likes of Australian psychic thriller, Patrick (1978), Michael Laughlin's cult classic, Strange Behaviour (aka: Dead Kids, 1981), and numerous other delightfully or lamentably trashy offerings such as Stink Of Flesh, El Chupacabra, Creepozoids, Vampires vs Zombies, Thirst, Maniacal, and Turkey Shoot.
At Dawn They Sleep

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