Friday, February 26, 2010

Dollar Bin Horror Spotlight - Dawning (Screener Review and Interview)

Dawning is the story of a brother and sister who decide to visit there father and stepmother at there house in the woods. Strange things start to happen. They begin to here things, the family dog is found with a huge wound, and a crazed man enters the house, saying "It" killed his girlfriend.
This movie is a one of the best indie films I've seen. It reminds me a lot of The Strangers in the way that it creeps you out, but leaves you asking "What just happened?" It doesn't rely on gore, but on the build up of suspense and the story itself, which leaves it very vulnerable to to the viewer. But the film overcomes this because the story is genuinely good and the build up of suspense keeps you hooked till the end. It's very well shot and the acting is really good. As I said before, one of the best indie films I've seen, so please check out Dawning.

I had the honor of sitting down with director and writer Gregg Holtgrewe to talk about the film.

Q: How did you come up with the concept for Dawning?

A: Dawning originated out of my love for horror and drama. I kept wondering why horror didn't affect me the same way as when something bad happens to someone in a drama...and vice versa, I wondered why drama couldn't be more horrifying...and in the end, to me, nothing is more horrifying than not being able to communicate and trust the people who are closest to you. So I set out to try and make a film which combined the elements I like best in both genres. This was a difficult process as it's a lot easier to just throw in some teenage kids, maybe a girl in a tank-top to cater to some sort of sexual interest and fill it with new and exciting kill scenes...but this wasn't the kind of horror films which affected me as a child...look at The Exorcist, Amytiville, Jaws, Alien, The Shining, Evil Dead, Halloween, The Thing, Texas Chainsaw, Silence of the Lambs and even Signs, etc, etc...they rely so much more on real characters and atmosphere and tension. These films are the best of the bunch and I wanted to try and follow in their footsteps. Lastly, I spent a lot of time looking at the way films were trending (which has been more and more porno-like) and I wanted to reverse the trend, which maybe is a bit too big for my little film but that was the purpose.

Q: A lot of independent films I've seen rely on gore, yours doesn't. Was it difficult to rely more on the atmosphere and build-up?

A: Very true, that's a great point. Like I pointed out above, relying on atmosphere and the build is very, very tricky because you want to sustain the audience but at the same time you don't want to lose them. Because of this dilemma I thought the best way to approach the film would be to try and create tension in almost every single scene so the audience can just feel the tension oozing out of, not only what the characters are saying and doing, but also what isn't being said or done as well. Ultimately, what's scary about gore? Sure, I don't want to be cut up by a killer or eaten by a creature but like Kubrick explores in Paths of Glory, it's not death we're afraid of, but how we die...and in "Dawning" I wanted to take the idea of death and use it as a a society we're so obsessed with answers (as if there can be any with death) and what happened? Why did they die? You know, the reality is, that's all just a lot of talk and show in order to appease people's natural inclination to fear death...when in reality our death is the only truth we may ultimately know. In "Dawning" I purposefully kept things from having answers so by the end of the film, the only potential truth may be in the last line of the film. Sorry, I ramble and get off topic sometimes. I hope these are answering your questions.

Q: Could you tell us what it was like to make this film on such a short budget?

A: Sure. It's been one of the most grueling and exciting films I've ever done. We started shooting in 2006 and I scrapped all the footage, went back to shoot in 2007 with a new crew and shot extra footage in 2008 and 2009. If you go back to 2004 when I first made 'Dawning' for $800 on weekends, it's been six of the craziest years of my life. A lot of favors, a lot of hard work on everyone's end and mainly, a lot of dedication, not only from myself, but the cast (which has been beyond great) and the producers as well. Over the film it was important I found ways to quicken the shoot while also making quick (and hopefully smart) decisions about what should or shouldn't be omitted. When a storm comes and knocks power out for almost a day, your shooting schedule gets crazy and you just have to move with the winds and make sure, no matter what compromises have been made, that you continue to see the film through to the end...only compromising on what won't hurt the overall content.

Q: Where can people find out more about the film ad upcoming projects?

A: People can find out more info by going to a few different sites. The film's main site is - my personal site is and we also have a Facebook, Myspace and Twitter page...just look for Dawning the Movie. We also have a few screenings coming up in April (one festival, one theatrical booking) and we'll hopefully keep getting the film out there with the help of blogs like yours and Planet of Terror, etc...Thanks for the questions and good luck with your site!


Planet of Terror said...

Glad you liked it Rhonny. And thanks for doing a piece on Gregg. A truly remarkable film and talent.

MrJeffery said...

wow. it sounds cool. love this kind of horror vibe. i will have to check out.