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Southern Gothic

Film One Star

Sometimes at film festivals I wonder if there's a pack mentality and that people will do one thing because everyone else is. This is how I felt about Southern Gothic, either that or I was in a different cinema to the rest of the audience.

Southern Gothic is a vampire film that is filled with the style of the South, this usually means slow and brooding shots, lots of atmosphere, thick accents and deeply flawed characters. All of these were present in this film, but it lacked something that couldn't capture my imagination.

SouthernGothic.jpgThe opening part of the film felt like a separate story almost, a short film that might have been created to gather the funding for the feature. I was caught by the twist and instantly thought of Near Dark for many reasons, but those feelings stopped as soon as these scenes were past. For me the best elements of vampire films were captured in those scenes.

So once these were passed we began what I would think of as the Southern feel to the film. Scenes were drawn out almost beyond their natural conclusion, characters plodded along rather than drove themselves forward, or were driven by events around them. In fact the whole film felt like it was the middle of a siesta and no one could really be bothered, none of the characters had a sense of urgency about them.

The characters and relationships really lacked the passion to attract me to the story or make me feel anything for them, even that of the preacher played by William Forstyhe, and he was perhaps the strongest character of the film and yet didn't illicit a great feeling either way.

He was a strong character, and afterwards Mark Young told us that he had been heavily influenced by that of the preacher from The Night of the Hunter, played by Robert Mitchum and directed by Charles Laughton. Strong as he was though he didn't capture me as a similar character, he was much more brooding and menacing, whereas this preacher was prone to shouting and violence far too much.

The other actors are good, but I just couldn't get into it well enough to enjoy the performances. I kept wishing the film to pick up a gear and the characters to push forward a little. With so much at stake (excuse the pun), the slow pace and laid back attitudes had me a little confused.

There were some humorous moments through the film though, these raised a few laughs, but I felt they pulled away from the film quite a bit. Perhaps that was down to the fact that I wasn't engaged in the film anyway, so although they were funny for me they were a distraction.

There were also some great aspects to the film, for example the cinematography. It does look really good on the big screen, with lush warm colours during the day and thick darkness during the indoor and night time shots.

The characters and story are very interesting though, and it does feel like there's another film in there really wanting to come out and make this one shine more. Perhaps another edit could make this a very different film.

Despite these attractions it failed to capture my imagination and pull me into the world the characters inhabited. I didn't really care for them, feel menaced by them, or feel a great rise for the hero and his fight back.

Dead by Dawn
Filmstalker Festivals Page
UK IMDB Film Details



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