Shadow (2009)

JUNE 13, 2011


I’ve said it a dozen times, but it bears repeating: the best twist ending in the world can’t make up for a bland movie. Sixth Sense, Usual Suspects, Empire Strikes Back... these movies are not “saved” by the reveals, they are elevated by them. Shadow, on the other hand, has a great reveal at the end, but even at 77 minutes with credits, it’s not really worth sitting through the rather generic Wrong Turn/Hostel/etc wannabe stuff that precedes it.

Hell the twist isn’t even that original; it’s been used in a couple other genre films, though I believe this is the first time it was used in a survival horror setting. I won’t spoil what it is (or hint at the other movies) but I will give it credit for tying these two genres together; few are the films that feature eyelids being cut out or a guy’s back being fused to a table that actually end up making you think a little. But again, whether it’s actually worth the effort to get to that point is debatable.

Because if you’re the type that loves to watch folks being tortured, I have some bad news for you – the bulk of the violence in the movie is off-screen. Lots of raised weapons swinging down followed by a shot of blood hitting a wall or something, and things like the aforementioned eyelid extraction are usually obscured - we just see the villain’s back as he does his thing. Granted, I could care less whether or not I see the impact at this point, but it’s kind of odd that they are doing the extreme violence thing and not even really delivering any.

Then there’s the issue of the story, or lack thereof. It’s the same sort of thing even a casual fan of the genre has probably seen enough: a pair of nice folks spark the ire of a couple of assholes in the woods, resulting in a lot of chase scenes. To be fair, the chases are well shot/edited, and what starts as a mere pissing contest between the alpha males of the respective groups becomes a bit more serious once the hero causes the rednecks’ truck to crash, but it’s all too vague/generic to buy as the real plot. You KNOW that there will actually be a bigger threat than a couple of jerk hunters, so all of this stuff is just filler. Once the real villain finally shows up, he does so with a couple of spooky bits in which the name of the movie starts to make sense (he seems to have vaguely supernatural powers), but then it’s right back to a different kind of generic scenario, in this case people tied up and screaming while a bad guy does terrible things to them. And you’d think a 77 minute movie wouldn’t have any padding, but think again when the villain puts the protagonists in some sort of electrocution device for what seems like a full five minutes.

Now, again, the twist is actually a good one, and helps explain some of the film’s seeming mistakes (why would someone have 16mm film of the Abu Ghraib incident?) and the odd little moments such as when the hero hears the heroine calling for him seemingly from nowhere, but by that point, the lack of a compelling story and by the numbers “get captured/try to escape” sequences had left me uninterested, with the scant running time helping soften the blow only slightly. If the last five minutes of your movie is the only thing that gives it a unique(-ish) voice, then it’s not a very good movie.

Like I said though, it’s well shot (and in scope!), as writer/director Federico Zampaglione proves to be better at the latter than the former. Jake Muxworthy and Karina Testa had a nice (sadly limited) chemistry and had a little more meat on their characters than usual, and I also liked the bit where they first meet the rednecks in a little shop, as the owner actually steps in to help Muxworthy face down their would-be attackers. Seems like more often than not, the owner doesn’t do shit (or he’s in cahoots with the bad guys), so that was a nice little touch.

But that’s the movie in a nutshell, really. Every ten minutes or so there’s something a little outside the box, or vague enough to be intriguing, but it never quite escapes the trappings of being “another torture movie”, and worse, it never once generates any real suspense (though the disappearance of one character does give it a bit of edge). If you have somehow managed to miss nearly all of the films listed in the “Survival” category, then you might find it a little less dull than I did, but I can also suggest a dozen or so that are better uses of your time just off the top of my head. Your call.

What say you?


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