Director: Jeff Lieberman
Cast: George Kennedy, Mike Kellin, Chris Lemmon
Production Company: Oakland Productions
Runtime: 90 minutes
For many horror fans, this is the one that slipped under the radar. Just Before Dawn (1981) may not be as well known as a lot of other slasher films, but that doesn’t stop it from being terrific. Its one of the best killer in the woods movies ever made, and shouldn’t get lost in the shuffle.
In the movie, five campers head for the mountains to claim some property and have some fun. They’re warned by the local forest ranger about the potential dangers, but they choose not to listen. A machete-wielding maniac soon proves that they’ve made a terrible mistake.
Just Before Dawn has an excellent cast. George Kennedy from The Boston Strangler (1968) plays Roy McLean, Mike Kellin from Sleepaway Camp (1983) plays Ty, and Chris Lemmon from Wishmaster (1997) plays Jonathan.
This film is a really great example of deep woods horror. There are no camps or sound stages here. They’re really roughing it in the great outdoors. Most of the action takes place on a mountain, with nearby waterfalls, rivers and even rapids. The characters are truly engulfed by the wilderness.
The movie has some amazing stunts that are simply breathtaking to watch. A shaky rope bridge and a steep waterfall are responsible for the most tense moments in the film. There’s also a scene where the characters roll down a treacherous hill that looked pretty dangerous.
The music by Brad Fiedel is atmospheric and creepy. The soundtrack includes some catchy whistling that is a worthy rival to the memorable theme from Friday the 13th (1980). It was also great to hear Blondie’s Heart of Glass in the movie.
There’s also an interesting subplot that revolves around a weird family living in the mountains. That particular story point helps to make this film a successful blend of Friday the 13th (1980) and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974).
Are you a fan of horror movies that feature killers in the woods? Are you hoping to find that hidden gem that has somehow eluded your ever-watchful eye? If so, then you really do owe it to yourself to give Just Before Dawn the time of day…
– John Migliore
For more information on the film, check out the links below…