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September Dawn

A descent into caricatures
By ADAM REILLY  |  August 22, 2007
1.5 1.5 Stars

VIDEO: Watch the trailer for September Dawn.

In the Mountain Meadows massacre, which took place in the Utah Territory in 1857, 120 California-bound settlers were murdered by Mormon militiamen and their Indian allies. There’s still disagreement over whether the killings had the imprimatur of Mormon leader Brigham Young (Terence Stamp), but director Christopher Cain lays the blame squarely at Young’s feet. Fair enough — this isn’t a documentary. The film’s descent into caricature is less tolerable: the settlers are a wholesome bunch, whereas the Mormons led by Bishop Jacob Samuelson (Jon Voight) are horror-movie villains. The massacre’s historical context (the Mormon retreat to Utah, advancing US troops) gets short shrift; instead, we watch hero/Mormon dissident (Trent Ford) whisper to an unruly stallion and woo Emily Hudson (Tamara Hope), the spunky settler who steals his heart. The violence, when it comes, is shot in slow, luxuriant detail that feels almost pornographic.
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