In an attempt to heal their relationship, a couple goes out to a nice little house on the countryside. After a night that hasn't gone great, with the two sleeping in different beds, things are about to go even more wrong when they find themselves in the midst of the undead.
Some movies can go a long way if they introduce their characters the wrong way, give it time to settle with the viewer and overall make sure not to hurry before they introduce the horror. Even if the movie grows into a rather familiar type, it's a lot easier to care when you've spent a certain time with these personalities.
"Before Dawn" is a zombie movie, it doesn't hide it, but we're introduced to our protagonists through their drama. The relationship is at a rough patch, and the more we follow them on their vacation away to be with each other the more sad it appears to be. When it seems to have reached a top where it's clear that there are problems between them, they introduce the zombies. A significant amount of time has gone by of the total runtime, and we're into these characters as much as we possibly can be. It keeps it interesting by now overrunning us with zombies upon first meeting either, so that's another thing that made for a more enjoyable experience.
As a zombie movie, it does okay. The zombies are not flawless, as they move crazy fast and are... well, acting crazy. My general distaste for hyperactive zombies kicks into gear here, but to be fair these are some of the more interesting fast zombies, because they seemed genuinely hurt/infected, not powerful. The zombie make-up was pretty good, with very pale skin and dark red blood - it managed to throw out a few gruesome zombie shots. Considering it spends so much time on drama, it's easy to say that the last part of the movie is rather gory. I mean, not enough to top any lists, but it was decent effects and a decent amount of it. Not too bad at all.
In the end, this is not a bad movie. I thought it did a few important things right, but I also can't deny that I've seen to much from the genre. "Before Dawn" hits the right notes on the drama and the gore, but I was missing a certain intensity of horror. It's hard to say exactly what was missing, but it could have worked harder once the horror kicked in. It seemed to drain itself in the first half, so that by the second half it hoped for the emotion to still linger through the zombie action, but I'm not sure it did.
I would recommend "Before Dawn". There's nothing specifically wrong with it - it's a quite enjoyable zombie horror. You've seen much from the genre before so expect it to be familiar, though it does put an effort into drawing you in and the ending was not too shabby. The two leads make a good couple with some believable issues, and that's one thing that helps it build up in the beginning. "Before Dawn" is good, but rarely great.