Shadows Run Black (1986)

MARCH 31, 2010


I forget what movie it was, but a review on DVDVerdict (invaluable review site, even if I don't often agree with their overall judgment of a film) said that this particular movie was the worst one the reviewer had seen since Shadows Run Black, which of course prompted me to “top of the queue” it. And I was baffled by the “related movies” Netflix offered, because they were primarily Kevin Costner movies. It wasn’t until later that I discovered that he was actually in the film (though uncredited), which was shot in 1981, copyrighted in 1984, and released in 1986. And since I own pretty much all of Costner’s films (love that guy), that means someday I might have this thing in my own collection.

If I ever watch it again, however, it will most certainly be with friends. Shadows Run Black is indeed a terrible movie, but it’s got that je ne sais quoi that makes it inherently watchable, not unlike Disconnected, or most car crashes. It seems to be a student film at times, due to the laughably stiff camerawork and careless storytelling (the non-slasher scenes mostly play out like the stream-of-conscious joint screenwriting of a beat cop and a racist). But there’s something entertaining, even delightful, about a “slasher” film where most of the kills are off-screen, victims are introduced only moments before their demise (whereas others are introduced and simply never mentioned again), and nearly every red herring suspect (and half-assed motive, including one that’s racially charged) is vastly more interesting than the identity/motive of the actual killer.

The movie also must hold the record for number of unnamed characters (Costner is one of the few to be given a name - Jimmy). Most of the credits are given to the sort of roles most actors wouldn’t bother adding to their resume - Girl At Station, Biker In Bar, Cop At Counter, etc. Even most of the victims don’t even have a name - you won’t shed a tear when Girl Stabbed In Chest or Girl Killed In Kitchen are dispatched.

It also probably holds the record for nudity without sex. Every single female character in the film (save for the overweight lesbian character who sets a table and, say it with me, is never seen again) strips in order to take a shower or to simply walk around the house. Two of them even offer full frontal, revealing that the limited budget stretched all the way down to the razor department in the process. But there’s only one actual sex scene (at the very beginning), the other 5-6 nude scenes are solo efforts. Again, this is the sort of movie that can only truly be enjoyed with a bunch of friends - after a while, watching it alone, I felt kind of dirty.

It’s also a terribly made movie. No one was apparently concerned with color timing, and the ADR work is sub-Jackie Chan movie, with people saying lines not only in the wrong voice, but in the wrong sort of “room” - a girl will sound like she’s on a phone even though she’s on camera talking to a guy right next to her. People often say things that are missing words (“For the 3rd time in many weeks”) or simply pointless, like when a cop points at a witness looking through mug shots and asks “Has she made a positive ID yet?” Yeah, she did, now she’s just looking at mug shots to pass the time, asshole. The same cop later begins laughing for no reason during a confession.

As for the afore-mentioned racism, it’s not really prominent, but it’s jarring all the same. Our heroine’s brother (who looks twice her age) is mad that she is dating an African American, but SHE is the one to use the N-word (twice). And later it’s suggested that he’s the killer, more or less for no other reason than the fact that he’s black. Like The Dark Power, this sort of stuff really had no place in an otherwise fun-oriented horror movie. And considering how random and largely inconsequential the bulk of the film is, it just seems like they were throwing it in there for more padding, which is really in poor taste.

And Costner? Well, he’s only in two scenes. In the first, he mocks a magician (one who is seemingly mute when he’s doing tricks, but has a bass player at all times) and drinks a Coors. He’s a full blown loudmouth, in other words. In his second scene, he is being interrogated for the murders, which has seemingly caused him to have a personality snap. Now he’s all nervous, eyes darting around all the time, giving one of the cops a peculiar stare for no reason, lying about his whereabouts even though he’s not the killer, etc. It might as well have been a different character entirely. It’s not like anyone would think anything of it if his character just had one scene - the fact that he has two actually makes him stick out more than the fact that he’s Kevin Costner in the middle of this no budget piece of junk slasher movie.

In case you still weren’t sure what kind of movie this is, I will leave you with this bit of dialogue from the killer’s final, “let me explain why I’m doing this” speech (which is primarily about how he doesn’t like non-virginal women): “Take Sandy for instance. Sweet, innocent looking Sandy. Whoever thought though that she was a topless dancer and living with a dyke?”

Certainly not I.

What say you?

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1 comment:

  1. I watch this every Halloween. You are so right, it's has SOMETHING that while it's TERRIBLE I don't hate watching it. I love Kevin Costner! I was kinda excited to read I may not be the only person to own his movies??? very cool!!!


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