Anchor Bay // 2012 // 89 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Bill Gibron // April 8th, 2013
Now you will see them too...
A late night radio talk show host named Charles Crowe (Dallas Roberts, The Grey) is having trouble gaining enough listeners to get a syndication deal. As a matter of fact, his ratings are so low there is talk of taking him off the air completely. Then, one night, he gets a disturbing phone call from a boy who claims to see dark, shadowy figures in his room. The kid is so paralyzed with fear that he threatens violence with a gun. The episode explodes across the media in Crowe's small town, turning him into a bit of a cause celeb. Even better, a mysterious package arrives at our hero's door, showing him that these so-called "Shadow People" may actually be real...as part of a real medical condition involving sleep dysfunction, deep REM activity, and hallucinations. As a doctor from the Center for Disease Control (Alison Eastwood, The Spring) tries to calm worries, Crowe investigates further, finding irrefutable proof that the Shadow People exist...or does he.
Trying desperately to tap into the true story spooks that drove the otherwise phony The Fourth Kind and using a similar style in the process, Shadow People is just plain stupid. It lacks originality (ghostly figures in the periphery of our existence? Really?), throws random science swaddle at the viewer in an attempt to claim veracity, and then, just when it looks like it will finally devolve into a typical fright flick, it abandons the horrors for a shallow supernatural procedural that tries to prove the existence of something that, by all accounts, is nothing more than a combination of mass hysteria and the placebo effect. The acting is somnambulant, the narrative concocted out of fictional and obviously "staged" real footage intercut to make things even more meaningless. Unlike the UFO thriller it tries to mimic, Shadow People can't find a good way of convincing us that everything here isn't fake. Even a deposition shown at the end has all the benchmarks of something created by a person with no knowledge of the legal system.
In fact, Shadow People fails because it violates one of the key laws in genre filmmaking -- a decent idea poorly considered and executed. The thought of something along the fringes fooling with humanity has driven dozens of successful stories, including Stephen King's criminally underrated Insomnia. But here, the entities are reduced to the punchline to a joke without much humor. We hear that they play a part in several deaths, but for the most part, we have to take the movie's word for it. Director Matthew Arnold shoots everything so dark (or the transfer is so terrible) that anything supposedly lurking in the dim is swallowed up and unseen. By the time we get to the big reveal, or the doctor's sudden sugar pill realization, we're tired of waiting around. Since we didn't really feel any dread or suspense to begin with, Shadow People can't help but feel like a waste of time. It's all set-up and no payoff. None.
As for the aforementioned image, this is a movie made up of various degrees of dark. Roberts' character apparently lives in a house where his windows don't work, and he also hangs out in a radio station where the need to conserve power keeps almost all the lights off all the time. It's like those horror movies where the hospitals "shut things down" after a certain time. Right. The 2.40:1/1080p transfer is clear -- no real defects detected -- but it suffers from said artistic aims. The soundtrack also tries to be suggestive, but the whispers and cries off in the distance are often drowned out by the score and the silly dialogue. While set-up in TrueHD, the Dolby 5.1 is passable at best. As for added content, a 12 minute collection of extended interview clips proves, almost conclusively, that actors are involved in the true life material. No actual person "performs" their anecdotes the way these subjects do.
Who knows, maybe Shadow People is legitimate. Maybe a Google search of Charles Crowe or the whole Sudden Unexplained Nocturnal Death Syndrome involved here doesn't give it all away. All attempts at proving itself aside, Shadow People is just not that scary. Any number of the viral videos references at the opening of the film would make for a more meaning fright film experience than what's offered here.
Guilty. Junk horror claptrap.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
* 2.40:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* TrueHD 5.1 Surround (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 89 Minutes
Release Year: 2012
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13