Horrorfest 2021 Presents: Just Before Dawn (1981, Jeff Lieberman)


Going forth with my wilderness adventure horror movie viewings, I watched Just Before Dawn on Shudder. Gregg Henry and George Kennedy both star in a movie that more than lives up to it’s title and the whole “Murder in the woods” aspect. A bunch of college kids go up into the mountains and discover all too quickly that murderous lunatics dwell amongst the lovely foliage and pretty outdoor shots. In fact the movie opens with a gruesome murder that drives the survivor insane. Deborah Benson also stars and is one of the best characters in the movie.

Kennedy’s forrest ranger warns the young folk that going up into the woods is a bad idea, so of course they ignore him. The murders in this movie are pretty brutal and the film takes itself rather seriously, which helps. Sometimes a movie like this should have very little humor, and the final confrontation is very suspenseful and well done. I think Just Before Dawn is one of those 1980s flicks that could become a favorite of mine, and it’s easily a film that would be great to view in a drive in setting.

Horrorfest 2021 Presents: Rituals (1977, Peter Carter)


Rituals is a low budget 1970s wilderness horror thriller that was definitely inspired by Deliverance. Yet it has it’s own style and is mostly effective although parts of the movie was the director trying too hard. The final act drags on a bit too much also. Still I liked this movie and I realized midway through that I’m a fan of wilderness horror movies as a sub-genre. Hal Holbrook leads a cast of lesser known actors as they struggle to escape from a killer pursuing them in the Canadian wilderness.

This movie has some great outdoor shots, and Peter Carter puts both the characters and the audience through the ringer. This was a decent enough flick that I only saw thanks to Shudder. I’m not surprised that Steven King is a fan of this movie as many of his stories feature people dealing with extreme situations. Be prepared when you head out into the middle of nowhere and expect crazy people to show up is the lesson I got out of this movie.

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