Dawn of the Deaf



Main Cast: Caroline Ward, Emily Beven

Director: Rob Savage

Every apocalyptic movie has to start somewhere, but what if that’s the only part you get to see?  What if The Walking Dead had ended with Rick exiting the hospital to find the world had moved on without him?  What if NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD had ended the moment Johnny gets attacked in the cemetery?  What if SHAUN OF THE DEAD was over the first time Shaun was told, “You’ve got red on you”?

Well, that’s the premise of the latest Alter short I watched called DAWN OF THE DEAF.

In this Rob Savage-written and directed 11 1/2 minute film, we follow the daily routines of several deaf characters.  There’s Sam (Caroline Ward, HOST) whose dad is fluent in sign, but whose mother is not, and Dad uses that to take advantage of the situation and has been molesting his daughter.  There’s Claire (Emily Beven, In the Flesh) and Imogen (Radina Drandova, HOST), a gay couple on the outs as Imogen is afraid to be affectionate in public.  We also meet Kevin (Stephen Collins, DUNE), a deaf man who is being presented with a Community Spirit Award and addressing the crowd in his own voice, something he doesn’t do on a regular basis due to the stigma.

In DAWN OF THE DEAF, Savage (THE BOOGEYMAN) shows us just enough of their situations to invest us in the characters, and then everything shifts into horror movie mode as some mysterious pulse knocks out every hearing person in view.  Claire and Imogen are arguing at the entrance to the subway and afterward they notice the tunnel is full of bodies lying on the ground, blood bursting from their ears.

Kevin is giving a speech when suddenly a wine glass shatters.

Sam is slowly pulling a knife from under her pillow as her dad begins to violate her. 

As Claire and Imogen stare at the commuters, as Kevin cradles his wife in his arms, as Sam leans against the bed, crying and covered in her dad’s blood, the dead begin to move. 

Rob Savage has made the first 11 minutes and 36 seconds to a movie I’d really love to see, especially since the IMDb plot synopsis reads “a small group of deaf people must band together to survive”.  In this version of the film, that is NOT what happens, but we’re excited to see it anyway, and then disappointed when we don’t.  In a world where we really don’t need another zombie film, I really want to see this movie, if for no other reason than, hopefully, in the end, we find out where the pulse came from.

We still have to see the scene where Sam overcomes her lifetime of isolation and victimization and emerges the hero she’s destined to be.  We still have to see the scene where Imogen sacrifices herself for Claire, proving that, fears aside, she always did love her and now, when it matters most, she’s prepared to die for that love.  We’ve still got so many avenues to explore here and it’s a bummer we don’t get to.

The actors here are all great, with Savage pulling heavily from this cast four years later when he made the awesome post-Covid horror movie HOST with Caroline Ward, Hailey Bishop, and Emily Bevan.  In a nod toward the intended audience, the entire thing is subtitled, even the speaking scenes, of which there are a number.  In the scene with Claire and Imogen arguing outside, he does a really interesting trick with the subtitles as the camera rotates round and round the actors and the subtitles keep coming into and out of view, blocked by their hand movements and bodies, so, like any other passerby on a busy day, we’re only getting pieces of their conversation.  It was something I’d never seen before, but loved the second it started, and it definitely got my attention for Rob Savage.

For such a short film, the scope felt really big, especially the outside scenes of what I assume to be London with big, empty sets full of dead bodies, reminiscent of the opening scenes of the classic 28 DAYS LATER, from which I have to assume this film drew massive amounts of inspiration.

After the last few Alter shorts, I wasn’t headed into this one with the highest hopes, but Rob Savage has proven himself to be a dedicated horror fan who knows his way around a character sketch and definitely knows what piques a fellow horror fan’s interest.  But, man, I REALLY want to see the rest of this movie!

Watch DAWN OF THE DEAF free on YouTube.

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