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September Dawn Review

Other Critics provided by

Critics scores range from 0 to 100, with higher scores indicating more favorable reviews.

  • 2.0

    out of 100

    Generally unfavorable reviews
    based on a weighted average of all
    critic review scores.

  • 0

    out of 100

    Chicago Sun-Times Roger Ebert

    What a strange, confused, unpleasant movie this is. Two theories have clustered around it: (1) It is anti-Mormon propaganda to muddy the waters around the presidential campaign of Mitt Romney, or (2) it is not about Mormons at all, but an allegory about the 9/11/01 terrorists. Take your choice. The problem with allegories is that you can plug them in anywhere. No doubt the film would have great impact in Darfur.

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  • 25

    out of 100

    Entertainment Weekly Owen Gleiberman

    The audience gets the message (religious fanaticism: bad), but nothing we see is convincing on its own.

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  • 50

    out of 100

    The Hollywood Reporter Luke Sader

    Cain has crafted a modest picture, filmed in Canada, that too often feels like a very elaborate episode of "Gunsmoke."

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For Families provided by Common Sense Media

Iffy for 15+

Massacre movie casts Mormons in villainous light.

What Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this movie revolves around a very controversial -- and extremely brutal -- massacre that took place in 1857. The film presents most of its Mormon characters as righteous, bloodlust-driven zealots who planned and ultimately carried out the attack, which left an entire wagon train dead. The slow-motion scenes of the event itself are explicit and bloody, featuring images of young children and women being shot, chopped at with hatchets, and hit by arrows. One religious ritual scene shows a young woman nude from the front (she's covered by a gauzy curtain); another scene shows a girl with her shoulder bared as she's bathing in a river (which entrances her young man).

  • Families can talk about how history is interpreted. How do different versions of a story shape belief systems and communities? Is it ever possible to know which is the "right" version of something that took place in the past? Families can also discuss how the various groups in the movie -- the Mormons, the Fancher party, the Paiute Indians -- are portrayed. How do you think the different groups would react to the movie? How could you find out more about the events depicted here? (One option is the PBS program The Mormons, which offers other views of the Mormon War.)

The good stuff
  • message true0

    Messages: The movie portrays Mormons as devious murderers who dupe a wagon train party and the local Native Americans before masterminding a brutal massacre.

What to watch for
  • violence false5

    Violence: Lots of violence, especially the massacre near the film's end, when women and children are killed in very bloody slow motion scenes that include hacking, shooting, and grisly use of hatchets. Flashbacks show looting and burning, as well as throats being cut; another flashback shows Arkansas townsfolk shooting Joseph Smith and his brother (body appears in a bloody puddle). A dead woman's body floats in a river. Jonathan fights the Mormons who restrain him (on his father's orders); he's chained in a cell. Micah repeatedly smashes a body with his rifle, then appears covered in blood; victims include young children and women. Samuelson shoots his son's fiancée; she dies in front of Jonathan, blood seeping from her chest.

  • sex false3

    Sex: References to multiple wives (though viewers don't see them); mentions of "whoring" and a woman's "masculine" behavior as an "abomination." A young woman appears nude (full frontal, through a mostly obscuring gauzy curtain) during a religious ritual; Jonathan finds Emily bathing in the river -- she slips down her slip strap and he gasps, though viewers only see her shoulder.

  • language false0

    Language: One use of "damn."

  • consumerism false0

    Consumerism: Not an issue

  • drugsalcoholtobacco false0

    Drinking, drugs and smoking: Mention of "drinking" in California (a state apparently full of vice...).