Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Castle Freak Out

Film: Dawn Breaks Behind the Eyes (Hinter den Augen die Dämmerung)
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on Fire!

I get interested in a movie for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, it’s the director or the people involved. Sometimes it’s as simple as an evocative name. That was definitely the case with Dawn Breaks Behind the Eyes (called Hinter den Augen die Dämmerung in the original German, which oddly translates as “Twilight behind the eyes”). I wanted to see this because the name is unusual and hinted at a number of possibilities.

It's also a film that is really difficult to fully explain in any narrative sense. That’s not to say that there isn’t a narrative here (there is), but that it’s one that moves in a lot of different directions at the same time. It’s also a narrative that features a guy literally having his junk torn off his body, so be aware that that’s something that is going to happen at one point.

It does present a real problem to me for the normal content of this blog, though. This blog has always focused more on narrative than on other aspects of filmmaking because it’s narrative that interests me more than anything else, and I would honestly really enjoy pulling apart the narrative threads of Dawn Breaks Behind the Eyes and seeing how far they unravel. The problem is that this entire movie depends on you not knowing what is happening at any time. It’s an elaborate bait and switch, in a way. The film depends on putting us off balance and keeping us off balance as much as possible. I can offer a few hints at this without being too explicit, so I’ll do that by connecting it to other films.

There are hints of a lot of other movies buried (or obvious) in Dawn Breaks Behind the Eyes. We can start with something like A Ghost Story and the much more obscure (but worth seeing) I Am a Ghost. There are also hints of The Others in places, and distinct echoes of films like The Haunting and the miniseries version The Haunting of Hill House, and more than a dose of X, although this was released first, so that’s more by chance than anything else. There’s also a moment that is extremely reminiscent of Shivers in a strange way. That’s a lot of street cred to try to work up to for a film that runs an inch past 75 minutes including the closing credits, but it’s all there.

At its heart, Dawn Breaks Behind the Eyes is a classic haunted house story, where a married couple has inherited a dilapidated old (haunted) castle and are dealing with the reality of that while simultaneously dealing with their own relationship issues. And, naturally, things get out of hand very quickly, and rather than offering us incremental resolutions along the way, everything keeps ramping up and ramping up into something more and more.

The truth is that I’m not entirely sure of what to think about this film. It’s extremely ambitious, and I respect that a great deal. But it’s also a film that doesn’t have a lot of explanation for what is happening. It feels very much like it was pitched to reach cult status, and I think it’s likely that there are a lot of horror fans who will happily put it in that category. It feels like a natural midnight movie, one that is best watched while mildly chemically altered.

Ultimately, I think it’s probably okay, but not much better than okay. I want there to be more to latch onto than what it’s offering, and that might be my failing rather than that of the film itself.

Why to watch Dawn Breaks Behind the Eyes: It’s a head trip.
Why not to watch: There’s a lot of bait and switch here, so you’re going to be scrambling to find purchase a great deal.


  1. Another.... mid-level film. No thanks.

    1. Yeah, it's pretty skippable, but it's also really short if you decide to dive in.

  2. Was surprised by how much I enjoyed this one. The underlying ideas and themes tie together in a really clever way and visually this is a masterpiece. I could pause the film at any moment and have a picture I'd frame and display in my living room. I did have to watch it twice to really appreciate it, but this film goes way depp, and is definitely worth checking out!

    1. We'll disagree on that, but that's what makes all of this interesting. I agree that it is pretty to look at--I just wish that there was something more for me to connect with in terms of narrative.