Dawna the Dead (2008)
[Thanks to Deggsy for the review. Since Xmas Day I haven't had time to breathe, let alone write up a new review. The kids are keeping me busy putting together bikes and doll houses!! Enjoy the review, and stay tuned for the Best & Worst Films of 2011 Lists and some NYE-themed horror films!! -- AHS]
I have insomnia. And I do all the worst things to do to combat it, like sit up, drink Pepsi and write reviews about movies, like I’m doing now. Occasionally I might look back on those reviews and consider whether or not I was too harsh on them because of my lack of sleep.
Not with DAWNA THE DEAD, however. Yes, that’s its title (in some places listed as DAWNA OF THE DEAD), it’s not a typo. Yes, that’s pretty much as clever as it gets.
Be warned, here and now: this movie is zombie-themed porn. I will spare Scott blushes (he’s so innocent) and avoid sending the more explicit pictures available on this magnum opus, and will also keep my descriptions as clean as possible. But you’ve been warned.
Boys and girls, I’m no prude. I’m technically European, and you know us Europeans, we’re all filthy hedonists. I kissed a girl and I liked it! But I’m still kind of taken back by the notion of zombie porn. Now, I love zombies. And I love porn. But I also love cats and chili peppers, without ever thinking the two of them could mesh together successfully. Vampires and werewolves have an inherent eroticism, if done right and if all sparkliness is avoided. But zombies? They’re rotting flesh, usually out to eat you in the non-sexual way. Zombies can stand for any number of metaphors, but as objects of erotic desire? I wouldn’t have thought so.
But filmmaker Laume Conroy thought differently. An experienced artist and illustrator, his IMDb entry boasts of an impressive-looking contribution in many fields (that is, until you try to recognize any of the films he’s worked on. The only “distinguished” one was his graphic artist work for one of the WITCHCRAFT movies). So Conroy put together DAWNA THE DEAD. He’s a true auteur, which means it won’t take long to kill off those responsible for this. And since Conroy is putting this out as an attempt at a movie, I’m looking at it with both conventional and adult movie eyes (and I don’t want to spoil it for you, but he pretty much fails in both ways).
It opens with the now-standard Grindhouse look of old-fashioned, scratched and beat-up 70s film stock, and a title card telling us that there are Nine Gates on Earth that open to Hell, and that the Sixth Gate is conveniently located at Eveningside Cemetery (filmed at Pioneer Memorial Cemetery in San Bernadino, California. Bear that in mind, that Conroy filmed some of this atrocity on and around the real graves of real people. Classy.) We’re in a car with two women inexplicably dressed as schoolgirls, Dawna (Zoe Matthews) and her friend Anne (Aiden Starr), who are driving out to a party at the cemetery (a party which is never mentioned again). Some expositional banter reveals that Dawna is still pining for her dead boyfriend, and during the course of a conversation which is driven with all the gravitas of a pair of tweenies arguing over which rom-com they’re gonna see at the multiplex, Anne reveals this choice piece of dialogue: “Oh God, that’s right. This is the cemetery that you always go to, to masturbate on your boyfriend’s grave.”
Personally, that’s not something I’d easily forget, which speaks volumes about the level of intelligence of these Epsilon-Minus Semi-Morons. And writer Conroy.
Anyway, they arrive at the graveyard and immediately break out the Oujia Board to contact Dawna’s boyfriend, ignoring the warning they get from him that he’s in a Bad Place (stuck with the director, I’m assuming). Then Satan interrupts, giving them similar warnings (and when Lucifer is telling you to get out of the movie, you really should listen).
Instead, Dawna leaves her friend – and any attempt at maintaining a plot to this movie – and wanders off, stripping naked except for her high heels (why do women keep their heels on in porn? Because they usually have day jobs which keep them on their feet all day, leaving them looking unattractive, and because pedicures cost money better spent on Brazilians. So Now You Know.), climbing onto the nearest tomb (and it’s not even her boyfriend’s final resting place, the dirty necrophiliac hussy) and proceeds to Strum the Kitty Guitar. As she indulges herself if not the audience, she has flashbacks to having sex with her then-alive boyfriend. Needless to say, this is explicit, and nothing is left to the imagination, not that there was much imagination to begin with. And I’ll tell you, even without the Zombie theme, the only people who might find this erotic is a hapless kid who torrents this never before having seen naughty bits meeting other naughty bits like this. Especially off-putting is hearing the boyfriend’s obscene phone caller-type voiceover assuring her that they would be together forever. Rather than making her many openings instinctively seal up like any normal woman’s would, Dawna gets, shall we say, viscose, and she, uh, seeps onto the graveyard soil.
Now, credit where credit is due (and I don’t mind doing so, since there’s so little actually generated): as this carnal offering makes the ground crack open and the dead crawl up from their graves, to the pulse of a Goblin-style synth soundtrack, Conroy manages to evoke the best of the 80s Italian zombie flicks. In particular I cite ZOMBI 2 and CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD: most of the revenants here have elaborate face masks instead of the usual grey paint and oatmeal, and clawed arms, and their clothes are in tatters. I applaud the genuine attempt to recreate the look and atmosphere of the era.
And I hope you enjoyed that moment, because now Conroy is back to the raison d’être of his movie.
These zombies have more on their rotting minds than just consuming flesh, at least at first. And as it turns out, the male zombies who attack Dawna and eventually her friend Anne have well-preserved equipment. And that surprisingly the girls really get into it, despite the stock screams that they allegedly emit throughout the ordeal, and the fact that they get killed afterwards (one by having the back of her head poked out. Hey, you put it in your mouth, lady, you get what you deserve).
And just in case you think we’re only going to be tortured with male zombies, we get a pair of female ones accosting a man they find walking alone in the cemetery (played by Laume Conroy himself. So, unless it’s a body double, and I hope it is, we get to see the privates of the creator of this movie as he dallies with two women in cheaper makeup than what we saw before. Lucky us.), before they indulge in an after-sex snack on his wang. Because that’s the sort of money shot we need.
There are a few more scenes going back to the graveyard, more sex and intestinal playing, before we get the obligatory ending where Dawna wakes up, unharmed. It was all a dream. Or was it?
Who gives a fuck?
DAWNA THE DEAD is utter shit. You get a promising glimmer of horror in the reanimation scene, and I would have been happy to see a whole movie of this. But it’s like finding one piece of decent lamb in a curry otherwise suffused with rat hairs and broken glass, because Conroy is here to give us porn. Boring, generic, perfunctory porn. There are the usual combinations (except, surprisingly, for any action between the two “living” women involved), and the female participants prove limber enough (to paraphrase what the historian Procopius said of the Empress Theodora, these women “flung wide their three gates to the ambassadors of Cupid”).
But it fails, like so much porn today does, in believing that showing people having sex is enough. It’s not. Gynecologist training movies would be sexier. Watching some poor underpaid woman kneeling there waiting patiently for her sex partner to give the camera the expected money shot onto her face is sad and pathetic (and illuminating of the director’s piss-poor editing skills. See what I mean? I’m watching an explicit sex scene and all I’m thinking is how bad the editing is).
The trailer (free of the hardcore elements if not the gore) is available on YouTube here, and surprisingly is available on Amazon here, if you’re really, really desperate to see more. But you can do better, I promise.
Director: Laume Conroy (also writer, makeup artist, actor, editor, producer, composer and cameraman. Thank you for not spreading the blame out, Laume)
Plot: 1 out of 5 stars
Gore: 5 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 3 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Derek “Deggsy” O’Brien