I give. Crying Uncle, if you see what I mean. Not at all sure what Damned By Dawn is about, other than a good time. The movie mixes approaches like Hamilton Beach, swinging from scary to ridiculous to potential video game promo in such a way that you really can't do much but hold on, because if you become attached to one section of the movie, you might get pissed when that section vanishes like the CGI mists that cloud Damned By Dawn with yet another layer of weirdness.
After an extended absence, Claire (Renee Willner) is returning to her childhood home in the Outback, along with her new boyfriend. Claire's grandmother is on her deathbed uttering strange things, while Claire's dad stirs boyfriend's tea with his hog's-piss stained finger. It's a quirky family. The main quirk, however, is the grandmother, a living revenant if there ever was one, who imparts confusing advice to her granddaughter. Does the granddaughter heed said advice?
Of course not, but over this nifty first-third of the movie her odd family's reveal, and ensuing chills, could make you think you'd stumbled onto something truly great. Showing real gumption, the movie loads up solid performances and boundless atmospheric visuals - neither of which decrease as the film rolls on. Claire's family and boyfriend are all believable and entertaining enough to really draw us into their world of nasty hissing televisions (bad reception) and other creepy sounds. While relating to the family, our ears are constantly straining to hear the weird little noises and half-voices populating the soundtrack, priming us for the shocks to come. When they do, at first they're very scary, provided grudgingly through limited-perspective POV shots, reminding us of the best of Japanese Horror.
But then [halfhearted spoiler alert] things go right off the wall, as the spirit that's come for grandmother turns out to be a vengeful banshee with an army of undead rotting skeletons. Throughout proceedings tons of mist and smoke (both real and CG) waft everywhere. It's to set us up for the CGI flying skeletons, which look cool and mean, and are used sparingly through swift editing and obfuscating smoke, that they won't make you laugh. Then again, they're CGI flying skeletons for crying out loud. At this point we're clearly dealing with something many would consider to be a horror spoof, especially when the skeletons splatter on a car's windshield in huge gooey globs.
Damned By Dawn, with its derivative, goofy title (Dawn is the grandmother's name, see?) can only then live up to that pedigree, it's a goofy movie borrowing unapologetically from tons of horror, fantasy and action genres - from J-Horror to video games. Thankfully all-around solid actors' work and sharp atmospherics render any carping moot. You'll feel tossed about settling into one groove before another abruptly starts, but you'll be able to groove on creepy and stylish imagery the whole way through. You might scoff at flying demonic skeletons swinging swords, but the characters certainly don't, meaning that what you get may not make sense, but it's a fun, scary ride nonetheless.