MPI // 2009 // 78 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Paul Pritchard (Retired) // April 15th, 2011
Reality Can Be Sicker Than Nightmares.
Shadow throws a curve ball at the viewer that few would expect, had it not been for the DVD cover art which gives the game away before the opening credits roll. It seems ridiculous the genre switch that writer/director Federico Zampaglione has made so pivotal to the effectiveness of his movie should be undone in an attempt to make the film more marketable. Of course, having said all that, it would be remiss of me to now go into much detail as to how Shadow actually plays out, leaving little room for much discussion on major plot points.
The film's opening act is knowingly reminiscent of Seventies thrillers Deliverance and Straw Dogs, with poorly educated locals turning violent on a pair of twentysomethings enjoying a camping holiday in Europe. Having returned from serving his country, and looking to find peace, David (Jake Muxworthy) quickly runs afoul of two local thugs when he defends Angeline (Karina Testa), when the two oafs make lecherous advances towards her in a bar. The following day, while out biking, David and Angeline are attacked by the two men -- this time wielding firearms and a Rottweiler -- and barely escape with their lives. As they are pursued further into the forest, what at first appeared to be a pursuit thriller takes a drastic turn of direction into the horror genre.
What interested me most about Shadow -- prior to seeing it -- was the fact that the film sees a new Italian writer/director throw his hat into the horror ring. Having spawned some of my favorite directors from the genre (Fulci and Argento amongst them), I was intrigued to see what Zampaglione was capable of with his sophomore effort. Unlike the famous Italian splatter films of the eighties, Zampaglione's work is far easier to follow, with less reliance on the fantastic; there's no The Beyond style "WTF?" moments, or the dreamlike logic of Inferno. Rather, Zampaglione seems more influenced by American directors, with (and you may want to consider the following a spoiler) Eli Roth (Hostel) chief amongst them-though Brit director Christopher Smith's Creep shares more than a few tonal and stylistic similarities.
Though the first half of the film differs greatly from its second, the switch isn't really jarring as Zampaglione steadily builds up a foreboding atmosphere, ensuring the viewer isn't so gob smacked by the change of direction as to be taken out of the experience. Zampaglione shows a similar knack for building up tension, with a reluctance to jump straight to the gore, preferring instead to tease his audience before acquiescing to the inevitable bloodshed. When the time comes to begin the slaughter, Shadow -- like all good horror -- shows no favoritism towards any members of its cast. This helps maintain an uneasy feeling as there are no assurances on who -- if any -- of the victims will survive. Though the gore is rarely OTT, there are several memorable moments, with one effect in particular bringing forth a possibly unintentional reminder of Harvey Dent from The Dark Knight.
As is so often the case with horror movies, the characters are paper thin, and really offer very little to elicit sympathy from the viewer beyond ones reluctance to see harm inflicted on another human being. Likewise, too often I found myself being reminded of other (usually better) movies as events unfolded on screen. Still, credit where it's due, Zampaglione pulls off a surprising finale to Shadow that few will see coming. Although it may not be an entirely original move, it does at least show a little ingenuity.
One facet Shadow definitely shares with its Italian brethren is its Goblin-esque soundtrack; though Claudio Simonetti's work on the Demons soundtrack also bares similarities with the score that kicks in during the film's final act.
The film is presented in a 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer, which contains solid blacks and intentionally muted colors. The 5.1 soundtrack makes good use of the rear speakers, and offers a well balanced mix. Besides a trailer for the film, the only extra on the DVD is the "Behind Shadow" featurette. This short making of (21 mins) sees Zampaglione not only discuss his inspirations for the film, but also talk a little about the film post its release.
Despite its debt to the many films that have inspired it, Shadow is still an entertaining way to pass 78 minutes -- albeit for fans of the genre only.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 78 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated