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Just Before Dawn (1981)

  Tags: 80's, 80's Slashers, backwoods horror, Chris Lemmon, Deborah Benson-Wald, George Kennedy, Gregg Henry, Jeff Lieberman, just before dawn, Katie Powell, Mike Kellin, Ralph Seymour, underrated

Your rating: None Average: 6.3 (3 votes)
Reviewer Rating: 

Rating #: 
Jeff Lieberman
90 minutes
George Kennedy, Mike Kellin, Chris Lemmon, Gregg Henry, Deborah Benson-Wald, Ralph Seymour, Katie Powell

I heard a lot of good stuff on this 80's slasher, but since it's OOP and incredibly hard to get a hold of, it took me some time before I got to see it for myself. I finally got to check it recently and I'm glad I did, because I found it to be a good underrated slasher.

The story centers around a group of friends on a camping trip to the mountains in search of some land one of'em recently inherited. Despite the warnings from a local ranger, they head out deep in the forest and on the way come across a bloodied and mortified drifter (played by Mike Kellin, who was Mel in Sleepaway Camp). They attempt to help him, but refuse when he requests a ride out of there. Despite the warnings and weird encounter with the stranger, they press on. Their peaceful trip through nature becomes deadly when they discover a couple local inbred siblings get their kicks from killing outsiders. Now they have to fend for their lives and hope to make it out of the woods before it's too late.

After viewing this movie it was painfully obvious that Wrong Turn borrowed a lot from this. From the stranded campers to the inbred, laughing, killer locals. The only difference is the cannibalism aspect. Of course Wrong Turn is the better movie in the end, but this was still a good flick as well. It was interesting to see a young Chris Lemmon in this flick as the lead male camper. I believe this was one of his first starring roles for a non made-for-tv movie. We also get to see veteran actor George Kennedy as the ranger that warns the campers of possible danger by going deeper into the woods.

There's a decent amount of gore here and the acting wasn't half bad for an 80's slasher. The directing was also good from Jeff Lieberman, who also directed horror flicks like Squirm and Blue Sunshine, and also the upcoming Satan's Little Helper. Yes, I enjoyed this slasher flick, but why did I give it a 6-rating and nothing higher? Well I thought it slowed down in parts and the ending was a little iffy, and of course I had to story-wise. I still enjoyed it none-the-less and I'd probably get it if it was ever re-released on DVD. I'm sure with all the recent re-releases for 80's horror now-a-days that eventually they'll get around to this underrated gem.

One of the best backwoods-type horror slashers, but slow in parts. Still worth a check if you're a fan of 80's slashers and if you're lookin' to see an early version of Wrong Turn.

Posted on February 5, 2010 - 9:59am | FrighT MasteR