Year Released: 2000
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 80 minutes
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Stephen (Brian Paulin) and Ian (Rich George) are drug dealers in competition with several other local dealers, but their lives take an interesting change of pace one night when the skanks they bring home want to do more than cuddle. In fact, they’re into biting. And the next morning, Stephen and Ian are puking, but they’re still not ready to figure out the repercussions of their one-night stand. Even when Stephen gets shot-up by opposing drug lords, but doesn’t die, they still need the women to return and explain everything to them.
The nymphets from the night before were apparently angels. But angels aren’t the harp-playing saints we imagine. They’re actually sick of humans and they have the power to turn these “talking monkeys” into vampires. And all that stuff about crosses and holy water killing vampires? Whatever. And sunlight? Vampires don’t hate the sun and it can’t kill them. They’re just too tired from partying all night to be seen in the daytime.
At times, “At Dawn They Sleep” seems eager to be a revisionist horror film, combining deconstructed theology and vampire mythology. In long expositional monologues, the film tries suggesting that our heroes, raised on Peter Jackson, manga, “Chinese Ghost Story,” and Tarantino know nothing about the way the supernatural truly works. But mostly, “At Dawn They Sleep” doesn’t worry itself with such high-minded ideas. It worries about splurting blood, naked lesbian nuns, and really bad flying effects.
How to turn a 40 minute splatter film into an 80 minute film suitable for Video Outlaw: Filler, filler, filler. Why show a puddle in the rain for three seconds when you could hold the shot for nearly a minute? Why show clouds passing across the moon briefly, when you can simulate the passing of a whole evening by holding the shot for a minute? Paulin, who also edited either has no idea of how to pace a scene, or else he has a masterful idea of exactly how long he can hold a shot before the viewer wants to kill him. The lingering shots of a possum in a tree? Is there some deeper purpose behind those shots? Or did Paulin just happen upon a possum one night when he was out with his camera and figure what the heck? Does the movie open with five minutes of black and white graveyard footage for a specific reason or just because you can’t go wrong with graveyards in black and white? Unfortunately, I suspect that the answer to both questions is towards the random side.
Sometimes, though, the random aspects of “At Dawn They Sleep” are the most spirited. There’s a goofy charm to the two vampires shooting their rivals with guns just for fun, wielding two guns at once like the bastard sons of Bram Stoker and John Woo. There’s a sacrilegious glee to the way the vampires tear into a corrupt holy man reveling in the fact that his God can’t stop them. And those lesbian nuns may seem out-of-place, but their coupling peaks in a spectacularly messed up bit of cunnilingus.
But mostly, the movie just falls victim to its inescapable low budget. The video photography is ugly and sound recording is frequently unintelligible. Sometimes the garbled voices aren’t a problem, because the dialogue is just sub-Tarantino pop culture riffs on “Battlestar Galactica” and Metallica. But mid-way through the movie the Prince of Darkness come to Earth (looking more-than-a-little like Darkness from “Legend”) and he speaks with a heavy reverb-echo effect making it impossible to understand a word he says. And this is a problem, since I suspect he was explaining the entire final section of the movie, which so far as I could tell just involved vampires flying in front of badly disguised black cloth.
Amusingly, the production values improve exponentially in the soft-core sex scenes that stick out like a sore thumb, but also inevitably gave the film its video deal. For the majority of the movie we’re watching these normal looking amateurs with Boston accents (the movie was shot in Attleboro and Seeconk, Massachusetts and Providence, Rhode Island) and then out of nowhere, attractive people show up just to get naked in soft-filtered light before vanishing and turning the movie back over to the amateurs. Neither Paulin’s friends nor the adult models can act, but the shift is jarring.
Stay tuned after the credits of “At Dawn They Sleep” for more of the models wearing lingerie and even less. If that’s all you’re watching this movie for, at least the post-credit sequence has no threat of dismemberment and nastiness.
Posted on August 31, 2002 in Reviews by Dan Fienberg
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