Victorian Grave Productions // 2003 // 7 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Aaron Bossig (Retired) // September 9th, 2004
"Until the day breaks and the shadows flee away, turn, my lover, and be like a gazelle or like a young stag on the rugged hills." -- The Song of Solomon 2:17
The year is 1892. Annabel, innocent and boastful, happens upon a cryptic young lady at a dismal lake. Annabel will soon discover that horror is the order of the day...
An ambitious independent short film, And the Shadows Flee Away has plenty of talent and respectable production values, but not enough story to make the most of it.
On a lovely day in the lovely countryside, the lovely Annabel is taking a walk when she sees a woman standing by the lake. Annabel's blissful stroll is shattered when the woman in black tells her a story about a girl who drowned in the same lake. And the Shadows Flee Away is a short film, and so there is little more I can say about the plot without giving away the ending.
I opened this DVD eagerly. And the Shadows Flee Away seemed to be a poster child for the things I love most about independent film, and I'm always eager to hear about real-life encounters with the supernatural. I sat there, watching Annabel learn about the girl's tragic death, and how her body was unceremoniously recovered, all within the context of a "period piece." The two young ladies in the story were so stuffy, they would have made Jane Austen twitch with inspiration.
Indeed, the acting by Rina Pignone and Lisa Marie Bellman is really enjoyable. At least, judging by what I saw. Fact is, the movie is only seven minutes long, and it doesn't give you an opportunity to see these actresses explore their abilities much. I have nothing against short films, and I actually appreciate an intentionally short movie over a full-length feature that doesn't have enough content to justify its runtime, but And the Shadows Flee Away has a decidedly unfinished feel to it. The movie ends, and you just feel like there should be more.
Although the brevity of the movie is one of its weaknesses, its fatal flaw is in the story itself. Yes, it's interesting. Yes, it's mysterious. And yes, it's supposedly true, which is what makes it interesting and mysterious. It is not, however, a movie. It doesn't feel cinematic, and the ending isn't as rewarding as the filmmakers thought it would be. Despite being historical fact, what you see on the screen is really nothing more than a classic campfire ghost story, one you've already heard several dozen times.
This is a problem I perpetually have with movies based on true stories. At some point, an assumption is made that a weak script is acceptable, because the audience will appreciate the chance to see an interesting story that really happened. This doesn't always work out. A movie is more than just facts acted out onscreen -- it's a production designed to move your feelings and pull you into the story. That didn't happen with And the Shadows Flee Away: Regardless of its factual nature, what's on the screen just doesn't work as a movie. It feels more like a segment from Unsolved Mysteries. If the story fails as a movie, the movie has failed, period.
And the Shadows Flee Away acquired some fine talent in front of and behind the camera, but didn't provide enough material to make it worthwhile. I'd recommend this for paranormal academics looking for a visual aid, or independent filmmakers looking to study some decent editing, acting, and costume design. Those looking for an actual movie experience would have better luck elsewhere.
The filmmakers are hereby found guilty on one count of Screenwriting Negligence: mistaking a true story for an interesting one. Screenwriter David Paul Schmickel and his accomplices are immediately sentenced to make another movie -- there is too much talent sitting on this disc for them to not try again.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Victorian Grave Productions
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 7 Minutes
Release Year: 2003
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Filmmaker Interviews
* Behind the Scenes Featurette
* Biography of Violinist Lara St. John
* Information on Kenosha Theater Restoration