It takes 10 minutes for Damned by Dawn to lose every ounce of its credibility. Paul (Danny Adler) is out laying fox traps with his girlfriend’s father Bill (Peter Stratford). Paul asks what some liquid is in a jar, Bill replying, “It’s fox piss.” Straight as can be, Paul responds with, “You mean urine?” No Paul, it’s that other yellow liquid they use to bait animals into traps.
Paul’s not done yet with his English lesson. He spots some rocks piled on top of each other out in a field. Bill tells him people are buried under there. Paul, god bless ’em, asks, “You mean like graves?” No Paul, like other holes people dig up and bury their dead in. Geez.
Not much can haul a viewer back into this tale, the least of all the whaling of a banshee invading the property due to some family curse. This thing is non-stop, as irritating as they come, so if the effect was to annoy these people to death out in the middle of nowhere, it’s a job well done.
What exactly this banshee can do is a wee bit of a mystery, one of its victims turned into killer zombie who literally spills his guts on the kitchen floor, while others stay dead for the rest of the movie. If it does anything right, it’s show up in the various shadows, appearing briefly behind characters, or just out of their line of sight to scare them, but after awhile, the effect is beyond repetitious.
Another thing our unfriendly local banshee seems to do well is stir up fog, or maybe it’s supposed to smoke. Who knows? Regardless, there is a ton of it, the banshee well versed in hiding the computer generated skeletons and… grim reaper? Never mind. It is after all too foggy to see anything beyond the sickle.
For the banshee’s final trick, it completely immobilizes one of the brave cast members who left the comfort of the house. It doesn’t rip off their legs or take out their kneecaps. Oh no, this evil critter rips the chin of the victim clean off, which apparently is enough to make someone unable to walk. This will forever stand as a medical mystery we’re never supposed to understand.
Damned by Dawn comes to us digitally, shot with the Panasonic HVX-202, a high-end consumer grade cam. The results are definitely color corrected, the non-stop assault of blues dominating the film, with the sole exception of a dream sequence at 48:33 where the colors take on a nearly natural hue. Even the whites seem clipped, taking on that blue tint without reaching a natural state.
Detail is minimal, the image soft, lackluster, and flat. A few close-ups, the first one of Paul at 7:26 resolving a merely okay level of facial detail. That’s one of the few instances where it can be picked up. Generally, this AVC encode delivers the source, which is a smooth, unnaturally digital image that lacks refinement, clarity, and depth.
The black levels are routinely terrible, almost assuredly the source and not this transfer. Within those sluggish blacks is an oppressive level of obvious noise, resulting in visible compression and low light artifacts. Nana’s (Dawn Klingberg) face at 11:58 is a perfect example of the hefty artifacting on display, large blocks moving around her for the entire scene.
With the oppressive fog, both computer generated and natural it seems, brings forth another issue with the artifacting: banding. It’s everywhere here, from the clouds at 20:01 to anytime the fog varies in intensity. It’s never tolerable or barely noticeable either, an in-your-face type of issue if there ever was one. Just to add to the mountain of problems here is some significant edge enhancement, first caught around the bed posts at 4:49, and creeping back in anytime there is a mildly contrasted edge.
A DTS-HD mix is, like the video, hampered heavily by the source. For an American, the Australian accents get in the way of the dialogue, already a bit rough on the ears with its on-set recording methods resulting in a natural but muffled echo. Balance is off too, the ear-piercing banshee screech coming through twice as loud as the important stuff, like asking what urine is.
There is no punch to the shotguns fired, the high-end muddy and lackluster. Bass is not a part of this track’s repertoire, shotgun or no shotgun. A brief chase sequence in a car at 1:01:00 is the only point of the film that kicks up the audio, demons and such passing through the soundfield as they fly over the vehicle. Some thunder is constant too, although that mostly sticks to the stereo channels, and with only minimal impact.
Two commentaries are included, one of them from director Brett Anstey and crew, the other with five members of the cast. A making-of is actually quite robust, coming in just under an hour with some honest remarks about the shoot.