There is a point in The Dawnseeker where our “heroes” are captured by a rival group of military types. As night descends, the camp comes under attack from the titular beastie and a firefight ensues. All of which is fine, in theory. But given the battle takes place at night - lighting is a constant issue throughout the film - and you’re never quite sure who’s doing what to whom and why, it all gets a little confused and disjointed. Which rather sums up Justin Price’s sci-fi actioner.
Set a couple of hundred years in the future, the Earth’s sun is threatening to wipe out all humanity. A group of mercenaries is dispatched to a far-off planet to collect stardust, a rare mineral that can somehow replenish the sun and save the world. For some reason, on board their ship they have a Dawnseeker, an alien creature built for, well, killing stuff. Inevitably things go wrong, and they find themselves fighting for their lives on the hostile planet’s surface.
Writer and director Price is clearly a genre fan. The Dawnseeker is peppered with references to weighty works from Blade Runner to Predator; the creature here even bears more than a passing resemblance, and seems to have visited the same galactic hardware store. But Price is far too stoic with his film, building an intense, earnest severity into the story rather than retaining a necessary sense of humour. With a pounding industrial score - something that appears in many low budget sci-fi films, it seems - that further darkens the already twilight-inspired visuals, The Dawnseeker takes itself far too seriously. Long, suspiciously padded scenes offer little narrative development, and moments where a little brevity - think Aliens for the one-liners - would draw the audience in are played entirely straight. What remains are unrelatable characters doing unrelatable things for no discernible, relatable reason.
With low budget filmmaking there is a risk of trying too hard, pushing against the constraints of tight budgeting. Much of the CGI in The Dawnseeker simply doesn’t work to the film’s advantage, whether it’s the erratic laser fire or the creature design that varies from “man in a rubber suit” to a strangely odd moment of 80s visual effects. Again, and at the risk of repetition, if the tone of the film was played a touch lighter these might have worked better, being almost tongue in cheek homages.
Sadly, the more Price and his cast and crew have strived for genre credibility, the more they have pushed on down a path that leads only to disappointment. As admirably ambitious as The Dawnseeker may be, the resulting film is a confused, elongated short with awkwardly poor effects.
THE DAWNSEEKER / DIRECTOR: JUSTIN PRICE / SCREENPLAY: JUSTIN PRICE / STARRING: FRANZISKA SCHISSLER, KHU, ALEXANDER KANE / CERT: UNRATED / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW