Labyrinth Busker journal- Brian Robert Pearce


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Coming soon: a new Jay Reel film 'The Highway of Death'

A film by Jay Reel


“I'd been struggling with the concept of DAWN for years before finally nailing myself in front of the computer in September of 2000 and hammering out a 14 page short story version. My intention was to not think too much about it, but follow through with a simple concept: A human father on the run with his young vampiric daughter named Dawn. What followed was part daily diary, part greek tragedy, a sprinkling of graphic horror and an emphasis on human drama. I did away with many of the traditional vampire "rules". Dawn is not immortal. Nor does she burn up in sunlight or fear crosses or garlic. Dawn is alive. She's half human. She's also part of a nearly extinct race of creatures, as was her mother who died giving birth to Dawn. Dawn must feed on human blood to survive. She feeds on the sick and near death, giving them a peaceful end. Dawn longs for a normal childhood she can never have, and soon she and her father will have to confront forces that are determined to stop them.

The screenplay and independent film that followed challenges the expectations of the vampire story. Can drama and horror co-exist? Dawn seeks to prove that it can indeed, as well as give you characters you actually care about.” - Jay Reel

Taken from Jay reel’s blog at

"Both sweet and somber, Dawn is not a movie about a vampire's lust for blood - it's a tale comprised of all the small moments that make up our lives, no matter what we use to fill our bellies. It's the story of a father watching his daughter grow and rely on him less and less; it's the story of a young girl who is confused and afraid of the changes her body is undergoing as she grows older; it's the tale of a man who can't decide if the hurt in his heart needs vengeance, or simply closure; it's about candy bars and key lime pie and the ties that bind us, and the things that guide us along the path of life and, occasionally, the throats we rip out along the way." Star C.

Labyrinth Busker reviews this extraordinary film:

It takes a mark of genius to provoke as many life mirrors into one seemingly straight-forward plot based on a vampire child being raised by her father.

In nature there is the predator and the prey. The Carnivore and the Herbivore. The Lion, the Cheetah and the Tiger tend to head the list of nobility in carnivores. They will exist close to a herd of herbivores in a state of peace until the time has come for feeding. It will lead to the carnivore stalking the herd and singling out one from its number. The choice and the execution must be correct, or the herd will be alerted and the predator will be obliged to work harder for its supper.
So, to forestall this, many predators may target the old, the young or the lame to ensure a first time kill. The basic balance between Lion and prey is that the Lion will live peacefully with the herds of herbivores within its 'territory', but it will claim one as food at required intervals.

But what of less noble Carnivores?
There are many categories, but I feel there is justification for loading the Fox, the Dog and Man into this 'massacre' category:

“The classic example of The Massacre in the Hen-coop is not a case of viciousness - it is natural behavior in an unnatural situation. In the wild, where the fox's instincts evolved, it makes sense to kill as many prey as he can, before eating any, since he does not know how long it may be till he kills again. In a natural environment, this might mean killing two prey, rather than one, before they scatter. In the hen-coop, the natural instinct leads to an absurd result, with more hens killed than can possibly be eaten or cached. The solution is to make hen-coops secure, rather than allowing the fox in and then punishing him for behaving naturally.”   source:


Jay Reel has taken the myth of the Vampire and placed it into a non-supernatural environment. Dawn and her mother are not creatures of the night. They are a species that can be explained in detail within the natural world.

Dawn’s mother (Mindy Raymond) had survived by preying on humans who were in pain from illness, had given up on life or were close to dying anyway. She had initially viewed Dawn’s father (Ray Boucher) as ‘dessert’, as he was preparing to blow his brains out with a shotgun. She remarked on how messy it would be - and that it might not kill him, leaving him lingering in pain. She had a better solution. He took it, but then changed his mind. They became partners, sharing their loneliness.

Mindy Raymond

Dawn can drink water, but ’eats’ by sucking blood through her fangs. She can eat ordinary food, but it acts as a poison and makes her violently ill. She has evolved from a parasitic species which could only survive by preying on humans and, ultimately (it seems), mating with a male human. If the relationship proves fruitful, the vampire will become pregnant and bear a child. But, in giving birth to the child, the vampire mother is doomed because her body has no mechanism for stopping post-natal bleeding. She will bleed to death.

So the mother must be sure of her human partner. That he had empathy for her suggests he will have empathy for their offspring.

Mindy Raymond (as the vampire mother) speaks of her fondness for her own (human) father - and regrets his decision to kill himself when she was 12. But it seems fairly evident that Mindy turned ‘mean’ at this age and turned on her father. This idea is strengthened by the nightmare Dawn suffered where she found her father lying in a bath dead from neck wounds.

Dawn’s nightmare



He comes to life (above) and stares accusingly at her. The shock of this jolts her awake and she realises it was just a dream. But, beneath this realisation, she recognises that there is a part of her that seeks to emerge and bring the nightmare scenario into actuality.

It seems evident that she will take her father as prey when she reaches 12, much as her mother had done. She had to fight off what she feared was inevitable, albeit two years hence.


Dawn awakes from her nightmare


In the first few months after birth Dawn (Kacie Young) is able to feed on normal baby milk. But eventually, it begins to make her ill. The devoted father would quickly realise why - and he (Ray Boucher) must either feed her with his own blood or watch her die. Dawn, aware of the pain and the strain her father suffered while she fed, learned how to hunt and feed independently as soon as possible.

She had strength far beyond her years, but, as another species, this is not so remarkable. Many ’relatives’ on the evolutionary chain to the human have strength beyond their size in comparison to the human. She would need to be able to survive independently from a young age to be a viable species. Parental protection and nurturing will enhance her survival capability and make her aware of life skills and pitfalls, but she is not entirely reliant on this.

Besides abnormal strength, she possessed a strong telepathy and a nose for strong emotional occurrences (like pain) from humans within a wide area. She was able to sense the emotions emanating from someone unseen who is one step away (or so) from the experience of death. Thus, she could reconcile her need for prey by offering her services as a kind of euthanasia social worker.

The essence is that Dawn would so dearly love to be normal and able to share the kind of normality that all the children around her experience. Instead, she must travel from town to town as anonymously as possible and concentrate her sense of normality entirely through her father. Father and daughter must divorce themselves from the rest of the world and find love and empathy with each other.

But the brilliance of this film is the way it provokes so many issues and memories within us all. There are many children who struggle socially outside the family unit and cling to the devotion of a parent, while being aware that the parent is so much older than them and will one day die leaving them alone. At the age of ten, for a child who feels socially excluded, this is a very real fear. The relationship between a parent and child can reach a special quality when the child reaches 10. It is a precious time - and both parent and child may mourn the inevitable changes the next two years may bring.

<>A parent may buy a toy for a 10 year old, but it might seem a bit uncool for a 12 year old. From dolls to toys to video games to dvds to cars to furniture for her own place to wedding dress. Each represents a kind of death, where both parent and child may privately mourn - while nonetheless moving on.

Dawn is better equipped than most 10 year old children may be when it comes to the crunch and a 13 year old town bully decides to pick on her. She tries to be civil and avoid confrontation, but the bully wants absolute submission. So he gets exactly that.


Bully gets his comeuppance

She takes such a vicelike grip on his hand she breaks three of his fingers before her father rushes to intervene. The downfall of a bully always makes good viewing, but Dawn realises she really wanted to hurt him and that the brutality of her primeval instinct was attempting to override her sense of good intent.

She scents out a man suffering a terminal illness and doomed to months of a lingering, painful death. She offers him a peaceful, swift end - and he accepts her offer. But she is incensed by two old men as she flees the scene and her primeval instinct urged her to go back and ’teach them a lesson’. She knew this would be wrong - and that it would lead her to the nightmare scenario of the dream. So she pummelled a tree with a fist, until she was bleeding and sore-knuckled.


Dawn pummels a tree to regain control

Back, in control, she fled to her waiting father. But events were about to take significant turns. A psychic was on her trail - and he had good cause to be on her trail.

It all went back to 10 years earlier - when Dawn was born.

Psychic (Jay Reel) on the trail of Dawn

The essence is that both Dawn and her father are characters who are so bound by love for each other and it is hard not to feel distress at the harrowing ending.

If Dawn had been a lioness, hunting the wilderbeasts and gazelles of Africa? The world would have admired her.

My impression is that the end of the film is a cop out. The film deserved a sequel. I think the day will come when this film will be re-done with a larger budget, but without the ending sequence.

More info (like buying the dvd) can be found by visiting:

Tempe Video


Would be nice, but I guess you'll just have to buy the dvd.
Don't worry, though, it'll be worth it if you're the kind of person that likes to be reached emotionally
and challenged by the plot of a film.


Labyrinth Busker Journal - Brian Robert Pearce