Armed with an industrial strength chainsaw and a twitch to rival Harry Redknapp’s, Podge was a fitting poster boy for Alex Chandon’s Northern gorefest INBRED. The actor who breathed life and neck spasms into the chunky butcher was of course Dominic Brunt. Was it just another day at the office for the Emmerdale star? - Or maybe a role that brought on far more personal significance.

For those who don’t know, Brunt shares our fanatical fascination with the horror movie, the zombie genre in particular and together with his multitalented wife Joanne Mitchell has conjured and emotionally driven tale of flesh famished terror.

BEFORE DAWN has been touring the 2012 festival circuit and has gained quite a few plaudits along the way. After revelling in the schlock and gore that was INBRED, I was most interested to see what Brunt could conjure when he not only starred in a British Horror movie, but also directed, edited and produced it.

Attending this year’s CELLULOID SCREAMS horror film festival in Sheffield provided not only the perfect setting to watch the movie, but also the ideal opportunity to explore the movies background as both Brunt and Mitchell were in attendance.

Incredibly, the movies inception was due to a "friendly row" between the pair due to Dominic’s relentless indulgence in zombie movies. Joanne felt the genre was a little repetitive and what started as a series of flippant verbal "what if’s.." eventually evolved into a full blown script.

The story concerns itself with married couple Alex (Brunt) and Meg (Mitchell). With their marriage hitting the proverbial rocky patch (or perhaps already ruptured beyond fixing) the connubial pair head off to deepest Yorkshire to get away from the daily grind and routine of their lives. Leaving their two children with Meg’s mum, Eileen (Eileen O’Brien), they set off.

But their supposed intentions of rekindling the lost spark seem altogether once sided. Alex appears willing to romance his wife but she unfortunately is more concerned with keeping up her routine (and contact) with male personal fitness trainer. "Is he gay?" jokes Alex. "No he isn’t…" is the austere and hushed reply, delivered with a notable lack of eye contact.

Regardless of their weekend away, Alex is still unfairly expected to sleep in separation from his wife. It’s a frustrating request that forces him to take solace in opening a bottle of wine for company as he settles down for the night on the sofa. The next morning and three bottles later, Meg goes for her daily run while leaving her groggy and hung over hubby to get himself together.

It is while out on this jog that she is attacked by a rabid looking hideous being. Is her newly acquired bite wound simply from the jaws of an escaped lunatic – or does it signal an apocalyptic tip of an iceberg…

Watching BEFORE DAWN for the very first time at 2012’s CELLULOID SCREAMS festival provided my own personal highlight of the diverse entertainment on offer. It was a movie I just found effortlessly absorbing from the opening minutes right the way through to its conclusion. The drama, built up slowly over the first third of the movie, contained brilliant performances that conveyed that awkward reality of a doomed marriage feebly held together by legal papers.

I dare say using this type of situation for a relatively extended period of the picture may seem a little mundane for a younger blood thirsty audience. But if you can relate to the turbulence of doomed relationships, the crisis herein becomes engrossing.

A SERBIAN FILM for example, could be construed as just a vulgar piece of film making. But if you have children of your own, the movie works on a much deeper level. The same principal (though admittedly not as shocking) could be applied to movies like WAKE WOOD, PET SEMATARY etc. The point I am trying to emphasize is the fact that BEFORE DAWN contained a deep dramatically driven situation into which some quality horror could be injected.

So when the aforementioned horror did eventually arrive in the form of zombies, was it a worthy payoff?

The makeup effects were prosthetic NOT CG, and the action was claustrophobically confined to domestic defence as oppose to military based carnage. As Brunt confirmed at the festival’s post screening Q & A, he wanted the movie to ‘be British’ and as such, there would be no firearms easily to hand in which to pick off the fiends. Imagine yourself cornered in a kitchen faced with a ravenous beast. You have to start getting somewhat creative with anything to hand pretty damned quickly!

The symptoms of the zombie virus were also given a lot of thought. (Basically, once inside a human it would push the body’s contents outward). It justified the zombies crimson sclera and explained why a deposit of innards would be left on bed sheets after a few days infection.

On the question regarding why the zombies employed were equipped with athletic running qualities, Brunt was drolly practical with his answer.

"Well the movie was set in the vastness of the Moors, so if they only shuffled around we would be there for a couple of days waiting for the first attack!"

In my opinion the energy of the zombies worked superbly and offered some vigorously paced action to contrast with the grinding marital drama.

The gore quota was enough for the movie to have an 18 certificate slapped onto it is probably won’t have too much commercial detriment due to its overall mature tone. Brunt confessed to having an initial concern that the movie might ‘fall in between two stools’

"My fear was that it contained too much drama for the zombie audience and too much violence for a drama audience".

It is this apprehension that is possibly validated in some of the less complimentary reviews. But for me, the movie blended both elements brilliantly. There were no implausible transformations into superheroes to save the day. It consistently stayed loyal to the focus which was the couple’s relationship. It meant horror and emotion of the film reached fever pitch before its conclusion. Additional exchanges with the festival audience revealed a further nasty venture in the form of a short film from Brunt and Mitchell is ear marked for a Frightfest unveiling.

On top of that, another full feature is scheduled to start shooting next year, again with Brunt in the director’s chair. While he suggested he might still take on the new movies editing, the exhaustive experience of the quadruple responsibilities has learned Brunt that acting and production duties will most probably be delegated next time round.

With his significant other, Mitchell, again undertaking the writing, it would appear the married duo are a match made in heaven as they look to unleash more Hellish collaborations unto the UK’s Horror aficionados.

Review by Marc Lissenburg

For more information check out the official site here.

Written and directed by Dominic Brunt and Joanne Mitchell