DEMONS AT DAWN movie poster | ©2022 Black Coppice Films Ltd.

DEMONS AT DAWN movie poster | ©2022 Black Coppice Films Ltd.

Rating: Not Rated
Stars: Ben Silver, Amber Doig-Thorne, Amanda Himsworth, Chris Sanders, Crystal J. Huang, Jimmy “The Bee” Bennett, Jon-Paul Gates, John Altman, Michael Della Pia
Writer: Chris Sanders
Director: Randy Kent
Distributor: Black Coppice Films Ltd.
Release Date: October 28, 2022

DEMONS AT DAWN bears a passing kinship with 2012’s THE KILL LIST. Both movies feature working-class English hit men who take on jobs that put them in some very strange – indeed, supernatural – situations.

THE KILL LIST had terrifically naturalistic dialogue and performances, but let the audience get a little too far ahead of the plot.

DEMONS AT DAWN doesn’t have that problem. It’s authentically unpredictable. For one thing, it’s so weird from the outset that we can’t predict which way it may veer next. This is one of the film’s pluses.

We start out in an American prison, where upscale visitor ChaoFeng Mei (Crystal J. Huang) and her assistant drop in on inmate Jed (Michael Della Pia). Jed apparently hasn’t been successfully managing ChaoFeng’s human trafficking business.

Specifically, something went wrong in the U.K. We then get an extended flashback that introduces us to Mickey Santini (Ben Silver). Mickey was “the best contract killer” in the business until he got married, had a kid and wanted out. Unfortunately for Mickey, he has a gambling addiction that has him a hundred grand in the hole.

Several people approach Mickey about taking “one last job.” This goes on for ten to fifteen minutes. In the real world, that would make sense. In movie terms, that’s a very long time, especially since it’s inevitable that Mickey agrees to do the hit.

The target is a former ChaoFeng employee who crossed the boss and is now hiding out in an extremely isolated mansion in the English countryside. When Mickey arrives, he’s extremely surprised to find his quarry already dead, bloodily murdered on the hill outside the house.

This is intriguing. Director Randy Kent creates an ominous visual tone. The demons, when we get to them, are pleasingly gross and varied.

But there are jarring aspects to DEMONS AT DAWN. Mickey doesn’t believe in the supernatural, which is fine – but he also doesn’t believe in covens. Say what, now? You don’t have to subscribe to a belief system to acknowledge that a group exists.

Mickey also seems to not know the term “fixer.” Granted, it’s used here in an unusual way, but it boggles the mind that someone steeped in the criminal underworld wouldn’t recognize it.

This, unfortunately, is indicative of some of the larger problems with DEMONS AT DAWN. Characters say things that sometimes just don’t make sense. They also repeat themselves, and talk largely in on-the-nose exposition.

Characters likewise go through abrupt transitions. Individuals who’ve just met bond as though they’ve known each other for years, while people who really have known each other for years seem to have a poor understanding of one another.

There are also some simply inexplicable bits, like what Jed (remember him?) could possibly have done to affect what happens with Mickey.

The through-line conceived by writer Chris Sanders (who also turns up in a supporting role) ultimately makes sense, with clues reasonably laid out during the proceedings. But the devil is in the details, and this is where DEMONS AT DAWN doesn’t fulfill its potential.

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