September Dawn (2007)
September Dawn (2007)

Genre: Drama Running Time: 1 hr. 51 min.

Release Date: August 24th, 2007 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Christopher Cain Actors: Trent Ford, Jon Voight, Terence Stamp, Jon Gries, Lolita Davidovich, Tamara Hope, Dean Cain, Taylor Handley

 


 

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wapping out Montagues and Capulets for Mormons and Gentiles, a very Shakespearean love story is massacred (figuratively and literally) as it tries to unfold amidst warring sides in Utah. When a wagon train of pilgrims from Arkansas and Missouri pass through land ruled over by Jacob Samuelson (Jon Voigt), the wary leader charges his son Jonathan (Trent Ford) with the task of spying on their every move. Through his frequent visits to the camp, Jonathan quickly falls in love with the vivacious Emily (Tamara Hope), prompting him to realize the error in his father’s paranoid assumptions. However, such romance becomes ill-fated betwixt the overwhelming hatred and distrust amassing from Jacob and his conspiring religious leaders – who devise a plan to ambush and slaughter every member of the unsuspecting wagon train.

If “Passion of the Christ” was blatantly anti-Semitic (at least in its extreme depiction of torture), then “September Dawn” is surely a flailing jolt of anti-Mormonism. And as little was left to the imagination in Mel Gibson’s gory epic, so too are the images of hatred in “September Dawn” so boldly displayed. Every questionable aspect of the religion and each morally perturbing “historical” event is dissected and portrayed in the vilest of manners, heavy-handedly shoving the message that “Mormons are evil” down viewer throats. In fact, several correlations between the ideology and Nazi Germany are aroused to create a very persuasive propaganda piece.

The “Romeo and Juliet” love story seems added as an afterthought and really only thrown in to accentuate how wicked the antagonists are for depriving the main characters of their happiness. The touching, love-at-first-sight scenario that could have been poignant is quickly lost. The villains are acutely sinister and malicious, but not for the sake of character development – rather, they’re drawn in this way to enhance the dehumanization of the Mormons. “September Dawn” does do well in its quest to rouse controversial questions, such as what actually happened during the Mountain Meadows Massacre, who was behind it, and how did they get away with it? But with its facts spread so thin, one also has to wonder how much of what is portrayed is truth and how much is fiction. The film’s opening line of “Inspired by actual events” is certainly less convincing than the typical counterpart “Based on actual events.” Ultimately, this isn’t a true story, so for real facts one will be forced to look elsewhere – and such bland storytelling should be relegated to somewhere other than a movie theater.

It’s hard to say if the actors do their profession proud as the characters they embody are so over-the-top and extreme. It’s definitely crystal clear who the antagonists are, but the steady beating of a dead horse only works to lessen the impact and discredit the authenticity of these personas. Ford handles a wide array of emotions, but no explanation is given for his sudden outcry against his religion. One instant he’s a faithful follower of his father’s commands, the next he’s a raging whirlwind of unchecked aggression, ready to commit patricide. Though an attempt at reasoning is given, it seems out of place to reach such a zenith so suddenly. While he may be better with horses than people, his reactions do seem forced just for the sake of exploiting the depraved actions of the story’s villains – of which there is no doubting their religious bent.

For existing Mormons or anyone contemplating converting, this isn’t a welcoming movie. It would be like a spider watching “Eight Legged Freaks.” The Mormons are displayed as such zombified hostiles rambling to the cause that the film might as well have been dubbed “Dawn of the Mormons.” At least other skewering pictures target their subjects with a touch of wit and style. “September Dawn” seems to forget that it’s a movie, hoping to become added to the history books, despite its one-sided bashing, be it founded in truth or not. There is little tact in this violent tale, other than the lackluster “Romeo and Juliet” aside of love, halfheartedly juxtaposed against the phony motifs of friendship, faith, and death.

– Joel Massie

  • 1/10