Watch: Rose McGowan’s Acclaimed Short, Dawn

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Actor Rose McGowan, best known to genre fans for acerbic, alluring turns in Scream and Jawbreaker, makes an acclaimed directorial debut with 17-minute short film, Dawn. Following a festival run, which included awards nomination at Sundance, Dawn has been made available online, free.

Inspired by the mid-60s true life serial killer Charles Schmid, known as “The Pied Piper of Tucson” (fictionalized in Joyce Carol Oates’ short story, “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?”), Dawn tells a tale of suburban yearning, which leads to tragic fate. McGowan and cinematographer Starr Whitesides frame a striking visual story, one of stylized composition and heightened period detail. It’s reaching, as many unsettling stories set in supposedly idyllic times do, to pervert that Sirk-esque melodrama quality. Take for instance the beautiful capturing of a night drive, almost immediately invaded by a warped, gnarled tree.

Though brisk, Dawn is captivating. It’s sad, but certainly charming in its look; fine young actors posed and poised to do bad things. Dawn feels trapped in her protective home where the inclination to rebel, the pull of a pretty, sympathetic face, and the now laughable instructions of feminine behavior in society converge. Dawn is lured out, and well… you’ll see.