Dawn of the Deaf is one of the most creative horror shorts I’ve seen. Director Rob Savage has taken a familiar concept and done something truly inventive with it, and the results are stunning.
In reviewing the film as part of the Fantasia Film Festivals 2016 Small Gauge Trauma Short Film Showcase, I said: “The most remarkable entry in the showcase belongs to Rob Savage. His Dawn of the Deaf showcases the very best of what a short film can do, setting up a simple premise and running wild with it. Dawn of the Deaf follows a group of deaf individuals — a young woman being sexually abused by her father, a couple who are in the midst of a quarrel, a man receiving an award at a ceremony — and takes its time tipping its hand. Savage cuts from one moment to next, giving the effect that we’re casually popping into the lives of these people. Through it all, the filmmaker cleverly relies on sound (or lack thereof) to put us inside the world of these people. There are also several neat visual tricks, such as when two deaf women are having a heated conversation in sign language: Savage’s camera maintains a constant loop around them, orbiting them, and every time the camera line gets out of the actresses’ hands, the subtitles used to translate the sign language grow obscured, cutting us out of the conversation in the process. This is all leading to a horrifying conclusion that’s revealed in the most deliciously devious manner — the camera slowly pulling back from the two women in their heated conversation, revealing something they’re both unaware of due to their deafness. Dawn of the Deaf is a must-see.”
Now the full film is available online, and you can watch it below. Savage is currently working on a feature-length version of the short. “Dawn of the Deaf is an apocalyptic horror short, which we’ve made with the Deaf community here in London,” Savage said. “Our aim was to create a genre film that would connect Deaf and hearing audiences in an engaging, thrilling way. As opposed to re-treading the same narratives usually seen when dealing with disability, we wanted to create a tense story in which the characters “disability” becomes their ultimate advantage over the hearing population.”
“Dawn of the Deaf has specifically been made as a means of gaining interest for a feature length version of the film,” the director added, “which we are committed to making with an entirely Deaf cast for a mainstream horror audience. It’s been a tough journey convincing investors that a film featuring Deaf characters will be accessible for a hearing audience, and we’re happy to be finding great success already with the short film, which has screened at Sundance, BFI London Film Festival, Fantastic Fest, Fantasia and has won awards at Sitges and many other festivals. Any exposure for the film at this point will be hugely helpful in convincing the decision makers to take a risk and a step towards greater diversity… as well as making a kick-ass zombie movie.”
Watch the full Dawn of the Deaf short below.