September Dawn

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Mixing grisly fact with florid fiction, this deeply romanticized account of the 19th-century Mountain Meadows massacre—in which more than 100 “Gentile” emigrants from Arkansas and Missouri were butchered in Utah by a Mormon goon squad and its Paiute lackeys—is sure to stir up old resentments, if not blowback for Mitt Romney. Its subcable production values, spotty performances and Shakespeare-by-way-of–Little House on the Prairie aspirations aren’t likely to arouse cinematic love, though.

The problem isn’t a lack of conviction. Even the absurdly expository flashbacks of a froth-spewing Mormon bishop (Voight, whose spot-on embodiment of self-righteous zeal is apparently a function of typecasting) and the gauzily fabricated Romeo and Juliet sizzle between an LDS hunklet (Ford) and a pioneer vixen (Hope) do more to underscore the story’s true-life machinations than detract from them. What finally runs the material off track is director and coscreenwriter Christopher Cain’s efforts to shoehorn in contemporary significance. The settlers’ own brand of Christianity is never interrogated, while the implied parallel between the Mormons and modern-day Islamic fundamentalists—the massacre occurred on September 11, 1857, don’t you know—is utterly risible.

Release details

Rated: R
Duration: 111 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Christopher Cain
Screenwriter: Christopher Cain, Carole Whang Schutter
Cast: Jon Voight
Trent Ford
Tamara Hope
Jon Gries
Lolita Davidovich
Terence Stamp