The first time I saw Dawn of the Deaf I loved it. The second time, on the big screen at Sundance London, it blew my mind wide open and left me, a dead set horror lover, in dumbfounded awe. Director Rob Savage breathes life into a tired out film genre and tackles themes of disability, discrimination and sexual abuse, all in just 12 short minutes. Dawn of the Deaf is an emotionally-driven, thought-provoking and undeniably gripping watch, that will leave you hungry for more.
When a deadly sonic pulse turns people into flesh-eating zombies, the hearing-impaired are the only ones who are spared. Following the story of a lesbian couple, fighting to save their relationship, a troubled, young girl with a terrible secret and a man receiving an award for his achievements in the community, Dawn of the Deaf is a character-led short, with more depth than most feature-length films of the same genre.
Savage’s love of zombie films was born when he was just 12 years old and watched Night of the Living Dead, whilst his parents were sleeping upstairs. He’s wanted to make one himself ever since, but knew it had to be a strong and unique concept, which would make the film stand out from the rest. When writer and producer Jed Shepherd shared his idea of a Deaf-led zombie film, Savage knew he had found what he had been waiting for:
“I thought it presented a great opportunity to explore an underrepresented group of characters, as well as a fresh perspective on the horror genre”, the director explains.
What makes Dawn of the Deaf brilliant is the way the audience engages with the characters in the film. We witness some extremely private moments in these people’s lives, at an intimate distance, and in doing so we form a solid emotional connection with them. The narratives in the film are so powerful and the actors’ performances so captivating that the characters they play no longer seem defined by their deafness. Furthermore by transforming what is often considered a disability into a life-saving advantage, Savage introduces a clever twist which challenges perceptions.
As one might from the title, sound plays a major part in the film as it offers an aural glimpse into the world Deaf people live in. In an interview for Director’s Notes, Savage explains that it took months to find the right balance in the sound design, which was neither over-stylized nor disruptive and brought the audience closer to the reality of how deaf people experience their surroundings. The hard work has paid off and that tricky balance has been found, creating a complete sensory experience where one might not necessarily appreciate or even notice the sound design, but would miss it if it weren’t there.
Rob Savage will soon start working on a feature-length version of Dawn of the Deaf. He explains that “the feature isn’t exactly a continuation of the short, although a few of the characters and scenarios will reappear in one way or another. It’s going to be a lean, visceral genre film that allows audiences to gain insight into an underrepresented group of people – all while being scared shitless”.
I am beyond excited to see how this short film transforms into a feature, and have even been promised a part as a zombie extra (now you can’t take it back Rob). If this incredibly talented director can achieve so much in just over 10 minutes, just think what he’ll be able to do in 90.