Dawn Breaks Behind the Eyes Movie Review

Written by Joel Harley

Released by Crossbones


Directed by Kevin Kopacka
Written by Kevin Kopacka and Lili Villányi
2021, 73 minutes, Not Yet Rated
FrightFest UK Premiere on 26th August 2021

Dieter as Frederik von Lüttichau
Margot as Luisa Taraz
Anna Platen as Eva Ziehnagel
Jeff Wilbusch as Gregor Grause


Now there’s a familiar prospect: a bickering couple inherit an old Gothic castle and decide to spend the night there. Naturally, there’s more to the place than meets the eye (behind which, dawn is said to break) and both time and reality soon begin to shift. Suddenly, abruptly, everything changes in a very real sense. For the audience, too.

dawn breaks behind the eyes 01 dawn breaks behind the eyes 02

This Gothic horror film is director Kevin Kopacka’s love letter to the surrealist waking nightmares of Mario Bava and Riccardo Freda. For much of its first half, Dawn Breaks Behind the Eyes plays like pastiche; a lost Gothic horror from 60s or 70s Italy. Dieter (Frederik von Lüttichau) and Margot (Luisa Taraz) are thinly sketched archetypes – he has anger management issues, she’s full of melancholy – but they inhabit the misty, moody, atmospheric old castle well.

dawn breaks behind the eyes 03 dawn breaks behind the eyes 04

Fans of 70s Eurotrash horror should enjoy this feverish trip, taking in hidden boxes of S&M gear, lurid violence and sweaty orgies. With the film barely breaking the hour mark, there’s not a huge amount of plot to speak of, just, as the kids say, ‘vibes’. The game changes substantially halfway through, but Kopacka keeps a handle on the mood and atmosphere throughout. The cinematography (by Lukas Dolgner) is the star of the show, changing subtly between subgenres as the film does later on. While it looks too artificial and clean to feel like real 1970s cinema, this is one of the year’s best-looking films. It sounds like a treat too, with a wonderfully evocative score and sound design.

The lack of narrative drive – and occasionally even coherency – will mark Dawn Breaks Behind the Eyes as one for the cinephiles only. It’s slight and, at 73 minutes (including credits) doesn’t purport to be anything but. Some viewers may find themselves frustrated by the film’s artifice and structure, but it’s an interesting experiment in style and tone.


Movie: 3 Star Rating Cover

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Joel Harley
Staff Reviewer
Haribo fiend, Nicolas Cage scholar and frequently functioning alcoholic. These are just some of the words which can be used to describe Joel Harley. The rest, he uses to write film criticism for Horror DNA and a variety of websites and magazines. Sometimes he manages to do so without swearing.
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