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Overall Rating
1.75

Awesome: 11.36%
Worth A Look: 6.82%
Average: 2.27%
Pretty Bad: 4.55%
Total Crap75%

3 reviews, 26 user ratings


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September Dawn
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by Lybarger

"’September Yawn’ is more like it."
1 stars

I wish I could admire a filmmaker like Christopher Cain for taking on a challenging subject like the Mountain Meadows massacre of September 11, 1857. The incident was a tragic, but important event that a lot of history books have ignored. 'September Dawn' could have used this incident to raise some worthwhile points the dangers of misguided religious zeal in our own age. Instead, Cain has co-written and directed a film that only the most bigoted of Mormom detractors could enjoy. Most viewers, if any are willing to part with their money or time, will simply laugh derisively.

The actual event involved the murder of a group of 137 people from Arkansas who had stopped in Utah on their way to California. Approximately 40 miles from Cedar City, a group of Paiute Indians and local settlers who belonged to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints attacked the travelers. Some of the attackers later offered the Arkansas emigrants safe passage to Cedar city but instead killed all but the youngest children in the party.

Only the leader of the attackers, John Doyle Lee (Jon Gries, "Napoleon Dynamite"), an adopted son of Brigham Young, was ever brought to justice, nearly 20 years after the crime.

Historians have disagreed over whether Young ordered the attack, tried to prevent it or was unaware until it was too late. As a filmmaker, Cain has the option of reaching his own conclusions about how the Mormon Church behaved in 1857. As a result he has created questionable history and boneheaded drama.

A logical decision might be to focus the film on Lee or somebody in his party. It might have been interesting to examine if he was simply a bloodthirsty madman or if he thought the attack might stave off Federal troops from Utah territory.

Instead, Cain and co-writer Carole W. Schutter focus on an implausible love story between a young Mormom named Jonthan Samuelson (Trent Ford) and an Arkansas woman named Emily Hudson (Tamara Hope). Their match is as unconvincing as Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman in "Star Wars: Episode II: Attack of the Clones" and a little bit sillier.

Opposing the attraction is Jonathan's intolerant father Jacob (Jon Voight). Jacob is the local Bishop who also serves as a secular authority and assumes any non-Mormon heading through the area must have ill intent.

Schutter and Cain paint all of their characters in broad strokes, so the performances range from stiff to vein-bursting hysteria. The senseless deaths of the Mountain Meadows victims are dramatic enough, so we don't need the clumsily florid prose that stumbles out of the actors' mouths.

Try to keep a straight face when you hear an earnest thespian bellow, "Don't die! You can't die, because if you die, I die!" Even normally terrific performers like Voight and Terrance Stamp, who plays Young, recite their lines as if they were paid by volume. Voight's raspy voice prevents him from reaching the annoying crescendos that Stamp reaches, so he comes out slightly better.

Stamp's lines reportedly come from Young's actual speeches, but they often seem like digressions instead of part of the story. Young never interacts with a single character in the rest of the film, so he becomes more of bogeyman instead of a convincing character.

Cain's best known film is the forgettably shoddy western "Young Guns." Nothing he has made before indicates he has the ability to craft a story like this subtly enough to be convincing or even compelling.

Early in the movie, he cross cuts between the Arkansas party's grateful, gentle prayer with the hate-filled ranting of Jacob Samuelson. It's an attempt to make viewers sympathetic to the victims, as if their needless deaths weren't already tragic.

“September Dawn” has had Washington pundits talking for months. Thanks to a cheap production (boy, Alberta doesn't look much like Utah) and even cheaper thinking, anyone who has seen the movie knows that there’s nothing to discuss.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=16161&reviewer=382
originally posted: 08/24/07 17:00:00
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User Comments

3/24/10 walter not very good 2 stars
12/21/08 Shaun Wallner This movie stinks!! 1 stars
1/04/08 riding high extremely onesided. All bad or all good. No such thing. More accuracies 2 stars
1/04/08 action movie fan could have been great-too slow masscare scene wasted in slow motion-potential not develpoed 3 stars
9/07/07 Patty Norris I am descended from the victims. I LOVE this film and was very pleased it was so factual! 5 stars
9/02/07 Exmormon What a shame... As a historical perspective hardly factual as a movie PUKE 1 stars
9/02/07 anouka the mormons did it, and brigham young allowed it. 1 stars
9/01/07 Ken very bad fiction and bad acting. The event deserved a better written and better acted film 1 stars
8/31/07 mike Religion is a scam. How does anyone know what happend in the past they wern't there! 1 stars
8/30/07 joyhope extreamly untruthful, no fact based, very onesided. 1 stars
8/29/07 ME Where are the FACTS? horribly inaccurate account 1 stars
8/29/07 Dave As a JD Lee relative, I had to go. Bad enough to be fun. 1 stars
8/27/07 anonymous True story well told. The side story of young love is not the main plot here! 5 stars
8/27/07 Evil Bishop Guy Jehovah created ME... to tell you this movie is a steaming pile! 1 stars
8/27/07 Sean Miller As a historian & not a mormon I had to laugh at this film. Dramatization to the max! 1 stars
8/27/07 JoshBeamen Worth seeing; well done period piece and strong emotional impact. 4 stars
8/27/07 Diana Terrible acting. Ridiculous portrayal of the Mormons, and I grew up with them! 1 stars
8/27/07 Nate So bad it's funny 1 stars
8/27/07 anon Accurately portrays the attitude of Mormons towards "Gentiles" that continues even today. 5 stars
8/27/07 Emily I laughed and I laughed, and then I realized it wasn't supposed to be a comedy. 1 stars
8/27/07 Truth Laughably bad. I laughed all the way through it, and I'm an exmormon! Absolute tripe. 1 stars
8/27/07 exmormon.org September Dawn was easy on the mormons 4 stars
8/26/07 Oscar Worth seeing, reminder of downside of religions in general, and Mormonism in particular. 4 stars
8/26/07 ss very good 5 stars
8/26/07 Winifred M. Mitchell One of the best movies ever - so much truth. 5 stars
8/26/07 Vid Terrible movie that tries to make complex story black and white. 1 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  24-Aug-2007 (R)
  DVD: 01-Jan-2008

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