review for Just Before Dawn on AllMovie

Just Before Dawn (1980)
by Jason Buchanan review

It's no wonder that among the tidal wave of Friday the 13th inspired early 80s slasher flicks a few gems would drown in the flood, and anyone lucky enough to fish out a copy of director Jeff Lieberman's Just Before Dawn will certainly find themselves richly rewarded. Those familiar with such lost-in-unfamiliar-territory nail-biters as The Hills Have Eyes (1977) will likely have some idea what a heedless group of teens are in for when a wild-eyed George Kennedy nervously delivers the obligatory "don't go in the woods" speech, though predictability soon gives way to some of the more memorable slasher antics and one of the most rousing finales of the genre. From the initial panic of "demons" in the woods to the appearance of a hulking maniac who seems oddly omnipresent, Lieberman's ability to craft finely tuned set pieces will have viewers squirming in the seats. Richly photographed to capture the alluring menace of the deep woods, Lieberman's camera wisely reveals chilling details in a slow and assured manner, with fear lurking under every waterfall and behind every ancient tree.