Just Before Dawn (1981)

Directed by: Jeff Lieberman

Written by: Mark Arywitz & Jeff Lieberman

Story by: Joseph Middleton


Gregg Henry .... Warren
Deborah Benson .... Constance
Chris Lemmon ....
Ralph Seymour .... Daniel
Jamie Rose .... Megan
George Kennedy .... Roy McLean
Mike Kellin .... Ty
Katie Powell .... Merry Cat Logan
John Hunsaker .... Mountain Twins

Release Date: Theatrical: November 25, 1981 (France); Theatrical: March, 1982 (U.S.A.)





A drunken man named Ty (Mike Kellin) and his nephew and his nephew Vachel (Charles Bartlett) are hiking in the woods on a mountain exploring a chapel. Suddenly Vachel is killed by a hulking maniac mountain killer (John Hunsaker) and then wears his uniform.
This causes Ty to think that there are demons in the m,ountains and tries to warn a group of 5 young campers as one of them by the name of Warren (Gregg Henry), owns a property up in the mountains about it as they were once warned by a forest ranger named Roy McLean (George Kennedy) not to go up in the mountains but of course, they don't listen.
They of course go hiking, swimming and party at night.
An estranged backwoods family who lives in the woods called the Logans threatens them to get off the land or they'll raise the devil.
They think nothing of it and carry on to what they're doing. But suddenly the mountain killer does away with one of Warren's friends and then Warren and his girlfriend Constance (Deborah Benson) discover his corpse in the river and tries to survive as their other friends have disappeared.
They try to gety help from the Logans but they don't help out and soon they are terrorised by two hulking mountain twins.


I loved this movie as it is dark, creepy and an awesome look at the great out doors in the mountains. There's a perfect opening with the sun rising in which gave the film a perfect low budget horror feel to the story.
The movie is off to a great start involving a crazy drunk named Ty and his nephew at an abandoned church in the mountains with the Mountain Twins watching them along with killing his nephew which was perfectly creepy and giving the film a perfect push.
They had lots of talented people involved with this film and I loved it's low budget look to it giving it a total dark feel to it.
Then there's the young campers about to go to the mountains not scared of anything which is typical as you know they're in for a death wish along with spotting little twin siblings in the area which makes you wonder if these locals are sane or not.
Then there's nice little hints with a forest ranger named Roy McLean telling them not to enter the mountains which makes you wonder if he knew about the terrors that goes on with those mountain twins. Of course this seems to be very common in a slasher flick with a supporting character knowing about certain things that goes on in the area and not the one's planning a trip. The group of friends also meet up with Ty who acts as crazy as hell talking about demons and warning them too. This was impressively written and done as anyone would think that he's just a crazy old man not knowing what he's talking about.
Then there's all sorts of fun with everyone skinny dipping in a lake near a water fountain or trying to catch some fish but yet they meet a strange backwoods girl named Merry Cat Logan which is a perfect key to the story in which every horror film needs someone like this part in a mysterious slasher film. Then there's one of the Mountain Twins trying to be sneaky with one of the women skinny dipping which certainly left a chill down your spine.
There's a perfect scene with the friends having a campfire and dancing to some cheesy sounding disco music which makes you want to join in but suddenly is stopped with a backwoods man shooting the ghetto blaster and his family along with Merry Cat telling them to leave and raising the devil which fits in perfectly to the story. You know for sure that they have something that the viewers don't know yet but it does get revealed later on in the story.
Great angle shots with Jonathan on a rope bridge and a Mountain Twin standing on the other side staring coldly at him as well as good shot on this maniac cutting off the ropes.
A great shot on both Warren and Constance kissing in a lake near a stream and Jonathan's lifeless body starts to flow off the stream surprising them.
Then of course the mountain twins kill everyone off one by one and boy are they brutal by doing so with their gigantic machette type of blades that they carry in which they seem deadlier than what Jason Voorhees carries around.
There's also real scary moments at night with a whistle that one of the friends use in case they need help with one of the survivors named Constance hears as the sound comes in closer. This for sure can gurantee to scare anyone who is just trying out horror films leaving an impression that it's for sure not one of her friends calling.
A real scary moment between Warren and Constance is when they think the terror is over the crickets stop chirping and they get nervous with good shots on them staring around and cringing.
The ending on the film with what Constance does to one of the mountain twins is a total classic and can be well remembered to anyone who has seen this film.
Bottom line is that this film was like a cross between Friday the 13th and the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre and a touch of The Hills Have Eyes with good freak out killers with many creepy edges to the whole story. The picture looks dark alot of the times due to it's low budget but that's what made it so entertaining to watch. It fit the story perfectly.

For a low budgeter, the actors perform superbly for a flick it's time. Gregg Henry (Warren) played the perfect lead male actor in the film with his terrific presence in the flick and energetic behavior. He really came across perfectly in his role as the head of his group of friends playing someone totally outgoing and charming. He also does a great job almost losing his sanity after finding out what had happened to his friends which is a change of his personality which is what a true character actor should be.
Deborah Benson
(Constance) had the nice beautiful healthy girl looks and attitude too and really knew on how to use her lung power too while being attacked plus showed some great physical energy in her role and never letting her energetic performance down at all. There was alot of good points in what she did for her character in the film.
Chris Lemmon (Jonathan) is believeable and really stood out as an outgoing jokester in the film showing plenty of pizzaz. He showed a great charming attitude in his role to top it off proving that he is not one of those idiots with a good hearted type of personality that would make you want to be around him.
Jamie Rose (Megan) was also wonderful as the flirtatious teen in the film as she knew how to make you smile by watching her performance. She brings out alot of spunk, humor and terrific characteristics in her role with a great bubbly attitude too. Does well by freaking out after that she discovers that someone else is touching her in the lake underwater. Also does well looking out at night during a bonfire and calling out who's out there after she hears a noise which seems creepy. In fact I found her to be the best actress in this film.
We have a supporting role by George Kennedy (Roy McLean) who was wonderful as a forest ranger with his real serious and no bullshit type of attitude. He was a perfect key role to the film in which I found him to be the best actor in the film. He really made his part very mysterious as if he's hiding something about what went on in the mountains. He looked natural in a certain scene by talking to his horse asking why it's upset. I always enjoyed his performances in any type of show.
There's another supporting actor performed by the late Mike Kellin (Ty) who played a terrific crazed drunk with his gruff looks and rough speaking which was very good and can really perform an eccentric type of character. A great crazy laughter on him falling to the ground in a certain scene. He performed in another camp slasher film before his death titled Sleepaway Camp.
Katie Powell (Merry Cat Logan) was very convincing as a backwoods girl as she really knew on how to act very strange as well as showing great crazy like expressions along with her speech which she really knew on how to come across as a strange one.
Just looking at John Hunsaker (Mountain Twins) as the inbred twins just convinces you enough that there is nothing pleasant about him. He played a perfect killer by acting aggressive with everything that he did and giving alot of energy to what he did.

Jamie Rose's character is skinny dipping in a lake and her breasts are exposed.

Not really bloody but the mountain twins brutally stab a couple guys in the chest. Hey, the original Halloween got away with no blood so why not this one too.

Brad Fiedel's composition is a classic with the whistling sounds and the deep keyboard playing in which this was low budget sounding but at the same time it totally kicked ass (Some of it sounds similar to the beginning of Red Rider's classic "Lunatic Fringe"). Two thumbs up for him along with some low creepy keyboard playing, drum thumping and the odd metal crunching sounds.
Of course he composed for many classic motion pictures like Blue Steel and the Terminator movies.

We have a songtrack by Blondie with the classic "Heart of Glass" while the 5 young campers are driving up to the mountains in which I had some doubts that it fit the story.
There's also a neat cheesy sounding disco type song that the campers are dancing to at night before the backwoods family shoots their ghetto blaster which I also loved that was of course composed directly for the film by Fiedel.

Jonathan: Last one down is a.... (Rolls down the hill) rotten egg.

Megan (Tossing her lipstick in the air): Alright, I found my carmel cream!

Megan: This place smells funny
Daniel (Sniffs): It's not funny

Warren: Hey! There are no demons. You hear me??? No Demons.

Warren (Nervously): Ok... No more devils... no more demons... No more... no more nothing out there... Just God's little creatures... More scared of you than you are of them.