Monday, May 28, 2012

Web Series Review: The Black Dawn

Credits: William Hellmuth (Creator/Writer/Director, Abraham Sherman (Creator/Writer), Jordan Warren (Adam), Eamon Glennon (Lee), Misty Madden (Julie)

Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Synopsis: The Black Dawn is a 24-part post-apocalyptic web series that focuses on a group of college students who survive after a virus has been unleashed and decimates most of the population of Los Angeles and apparently much of the world as well. As the series begins, thirteen students from the same college take refuge together after a watching a strange black cloud cover the city and unleash a virus that kills off all of the other students as well as most of the city. They find one more survivor, also a student, and they also see a news broadcast stating that these black clouds have appeared over most of the world’s major cities with tragic consequences (and the news announcer herself dies mid-broadcast). The students come together at first but then split into two camps, one lead by the maniacal Lee who believes they survived for a reason and the other lead by the more level-headed Adam who just wants answers. They eventually find that they are not the only survivors in the city, but the others who remain have more sinister designs.

Review/Commentary: I’m a sucker for post-apocalyptic stories, especially when they are well-done, and Black Dawn definitely falls into that camp. It delivers a riveting, tension-filled tale wrought with paranoia and anxiety and keeps the viewer coming back for more and looking for the same answers that the characters in the story seek. And it does a good job of delivering those answers without leaving too many dangling threads. In a sense, it is a scaled down mystery/sci fi series along the lines of Jericho or FlashFoward where a cataclysmic event occurs and the survivors try to piece together the facts and determine what exactly happened. However, since this series originally only ran for 24 episodes of approximately 5 minutes each, it did not meander or pad its tale. Definitely an advantage that the web series format has over traditional network programming which insists on a twenty-plus episode season.

Of course Black Dawn must face many of the same hurdles that most web productions must contend with such as low production values and adequate at best acting. But it does rise to the challenge as it never really drops below the production quality of one of the lower budget cable shows, and several of the actors deliver decent, if not exceptional, performances. It does have a few loose ends and leaps of logic that may bother you, though. Like why the heck didn’t these guys immediately start surfing the internet to find information on survivors in other parts of the world? (This same thing drove me crazy in Jericho.) It’s not like they didn’t have internet connection or power (and how did the power keep working for the full time covered in the series?). And how was it that Lee got to be such a bad-ass that he could go in and take on all those Black Dawn guys? None of this acted as a deal breaker for me, though some viewers might take issue with these and a few other minor lapses.

And I assume the device of the back cloud over the city was a contrivance to give the producers an excuse to film at night (even though it’s supposed to be the middle of the day) when the areas they filmed in would be vacated. But this doesn’t feel contrived and actually lends to the atmosphere of the series. It's a brilliant example of the creative team relying on ingenuity and making the most of their limited resources, something that we saw a lot more of back in the days of limited sfx technology. Nowadays, television shows tend to give us great visuals with CGI effects which simply mask the vapid stories and lack of creativity they offer. Give me a good story like The Black Dawn over cool special effects any day.  The series delivers a mostly complete tale over 24 episodes, though it does not answer all of the questions raised and it leaves itself open to potentially continue with a sequel series.

Links/More Information:  As mentioned, The Black Dawn originally spanned 24 webisodes, but it has since been edited into seven half hour episodes and was even syndicated on television.  You can watch those episodes on the show's website and/or on  You can also download the full series from the show's website.  It was also edited into a feature-length movie which is available from  They also did a companion online comic with the web series which is now available in a print edition which you can purchase at the show's website.

Visit The Black Dawn website at this link where you can watch/download the series and order the comic book.

Watch The Black Dawn at at this link.

Download/Stream The Black Dawn movie from at this link.

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