Rose McGowan’s ‘DAWN’ – Eerie, Unnerving, and Beautiful

Rose McGowan has always been awesome. From Doom Generation to Planet Terror, from Jawbreaker to Scream, she’s given life to a small army of iconic genre characters during her career. And now she’s broken into the world of directing, with her premiere thrilling short, Dawn.

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Dawn is the most impactful and realistic kind of horror there is, which is to say that its storyline is based on the horrors of true life. Others may call it a thriller or dark drama, but honestly, I ended the short feeling unnerved and horrified.

The story follows 1950’s all-American girl, Dawn; a quiet, oppressed, naive, and innocent teenager just trying to survive in the prim and proper world her parents keep her in. Daily she walks through life, knowing she’s being shielded away from so much around her, while at the same time being groomed into being the perfect young woman. Her mother, her magazines, and even the boy she has a crush on all tell her how she should be acting – ask questions, but not too many, be easy going, don’t date outside of your class – and this is just the common, ever-present horror of Dawn’s life. The worst is yet to come. (Next paragraph contains no spoilers, but some allusion and comparison!)

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I can’t speak to what happens further into the short without spoiling it, but let’s just say that the ending is beautifully bleak, chilling, and cold. It reminded me of films like Funny Games, The Dead Girl, and The Last House on the Left which left me at the end feeling like I’d just been through a whole ordeal myself!

The short may seem very straight-forward to some, but it really does pack a relevant message, if not several, about the way women have always been treated and are still being treated today. Rose makes us remember how many young women in those “innocent” yesteryears were raised, in the same way Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl character Amazing Amy reminded us about how it is for women today, with her Cool Girl monologue. 

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But let me tell you about what lies beyond the storyline and themes. First, the young cast is great. Tara Lynne Barr (also in the now airing Aquarius) immediately captivates as the we-know-she’s-doomed Dawn, and you pray for her the entire 17 minutes she’s there. Reiley McClendon, Michael Moskewicz, and Hannah Marks (who needs to play a young Kristen Ritter in something now!) are also perfectly memorable as Dawn’s edgy new friends from the wrong side of the tracks.

And then there’s the styling of the film. God, how beautiful it was in it’s retro-Americana darkness! In various scenes you could literally feel how stiflingly perfect Dawn’s home was to her, or how eerie yet energetic the night woods were. Rose definitely has a knack for realizing film as an art, rather than just an industry or machine, and a clear ability to bring that art to life. Why she’s able to accomplish something of this magnitude, worthy of this kind of praise, in 17 minutes while other filmmakers fail to do it in 2 hours with multi-million dollar budgets? That one is beyond me.

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It’s important to know that Rose simply isn’t making current headlines because of this short masterpiece alone though. Rather, she is being talked about because she’s a veteran actress speaking out against and spotlighting Hollywood sexism when she sees it. Most recently, she shed light on a demeaning casting call from a source that is either apparently helmed by Adam Sandler or has locked him on as a leading man. In it, the casting call asks women interested in/approached for auditioning not only to “read the attached script… for context” (because most actresses go into auditions blindly, you see), but also requests them to show up in dark, form-fitting attire that needs to accentuate their cleavage. Shortly after this, her acting agent dropped her for making this public notice, because clearly a woman who speaks her mind and points out sexism is just way too much to handle.

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It’ll be great to see what Rose does next, in both regards. Not only have we just witnessed a new aspect of her overall artistic talent, but we’ve watched her quickly become a new champion of sorts for what she says is simply just “humanism” – or, just humans being good, just, and equal to each other.

Brilliant.

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