Dawn of the Deaf takes a tried and true story scenario and changes it a unique way, exploring it exclusively through the eyes of people with impaired hearing.
With the huge success of The Walking Dead, the entertainment industry is big on projects about zombies right now. Films like World War Z, Warm Bodies, and the Evil Dead remake have been capitalized on audience’s reinvigorated interest in the undead. While zombies have always been a popular subject, we are currently in a hotbed of ideas for the subgenres. Since there is such a surplus of these kinds of movies, filmmakers need to be more creative in how they approach the topic. Without changes to the formula, a zombie flick may be dismissed as being redundant or uninspired. British writer Jed Shepherd understood this when developing his original story for Dawn of the Deaf, a short film directed and penned by Rob Savage and produced by Douglas Cox. This eleven-minute science fiction horror has received much critical acclaim, being selected for plenty of festivals, including the Sundance Film Festival and the BFI London Film Festival. Featuring great cinematography and intriguing characters, Dawn of the Deaf takes on the zombie sub-genre and turns it on its ear (no pun intended).
In the near future, a piercing noise causes every hearing person on Earth to die and come back to life as mindless flesh-eaters. Only deaf people are left to fight off the ravenous hordes, as they must stick together to survive.
On the technical side, Dawn of the Deaf is a very well-made short film. The lighting is appropriately subdued and the editing by Riccardo Servini flows naturally from scene to scene. The subtitles at the bottom – which are there whether you turn them on or not – emphasizes the theme of deafness that the piece implements. In one scene, the characters’ bodies obscure the captions, signifying that you would not be able to interpret what they are saying without seeing their hands. Savage does a commendable job in the director’s chair, making every shot count. From a visual standpoint, Dawn of the Deaf meets the mark with flying colors.
This short is very good at representing hearing impaired people. Each of the point-of-view characters have realistic problems and they are explored thoughtfully. Sam (Caroline Ward) struggles with her life at home, as her father (Chris Curran) uses her deafness to take advantage of her. Nat (Haley Bishop) butts heads with her girlfriend, Imogen (Radina Drandova) because she acts like she is ashamed of her disability. Kevin (Stephen Collins) experienced much prejudice and belligerence throughout his life, but overcame it to become successful, thanks in part to the support of his wife, Claire (Emily Bevan). Each role is fleshed out as well as they can be over the course of eleven minutes. The story gets viewers to care about these people, making them empathize with their plights.
The biggest problem with Dawn of the Deaf is that it ends right as it is about to get started. Not to spoil anything, but the outbreak that I described in the second paragraph of this review takes place in the last two minutes of the short. The film’s site claims that it is about a group of deaf people banding together to fight against zombies. However, we never see this happen. None of the separate plots come together, and we never see any of the characters fight against the zombies. It feels more like an opening to a full-length movie than a self-contained story. That being said, if the plot were to continue, I would be very interested in seeing the end results.
Dawn of the Deaf is a masterful short film that fans of horror and slice-of-life stories will enjoy. It may seem incomplete, but if you want to be impressed by amazing cinematography and developed characters, you should watch it as soon as possible.