Lionsgate // 2005 // 91 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // May 25th, 2007
An experiment in terror.
Scientists vs. zombies!
A group of scientists and a security guard wake up in a subterranean government facility with no memory of whom they are and are thrown headfirst into an all you can eat flesh buffet. Tricked out zombie-like creatures are running amok, feasting on any hapless victims they might shamble across and generally terrorizing all in their vicinity.
Led by Reeve (Jason Coviello), the brave security chief, the band of misfits must unravel their identities while simultaneously trying to survive the night. Meanwhile, in the outside world, a deranged General who was responsible for the mysterious zombie-animating program puts his sinister plans in action to tie up all his loose ends. Will our heroes make it out in time? Only if you wish it with all your heart!
I was surprised by The Shadow Walkers a competent little undead-actioner that gets enough right to merit a light recommendation from yours truly. The film moves quickly, there's plenty of bloodshed and though the plot is the same kind of derivative dopiness that can be found in any zombie film, the execution of the formula is tight.
What I really liked about the film is how it starts. Director Mark Steven Grove chose to throw the viewer right into the middle of the nightmare, leaving zero time for introductory exposition. While the opening credits fly, all hell breaks loose, the undead organisms get up, get reanimated and get rolling and KA-POW the film begins with the group of survivors trying to untangle the web of claustrophobic horror they've found themselves in. It's a novel way to kick off a film, especially a chase movie like this, and it lends the proceedings a feel of urgency and unease.
Grove builds on the punchy intro and keeps his film moving fast. The main characters are consistently running and the creatures are consistently popping up to torment them. During all the running and fighting and flesh-eating, expository scenes are revealed piece-meal, sometimes from the zombie-when-he-wasn't-a-zombie's point of view, which is kind of cool. Other times, the scientists reminisce, divulging another chunk of the big secret. And that secret? Well, that's the main gripe I have with the plot. We're in a military installation run by a psycho general experimenting on the undead, and his plan is...I won't tell you but don't kid yourself. You already know what's going on. It's been done thousands of times before and it's a shame that Grove and company couldn't come up with a more original plot point.
In the acting department, Coviello carries the film, and he's a legitimate fighting force. He brings an impressive physical presence to the screen and knows how to handle his martial arts. There are several action sequences that pit Coviello's Reeve character against the creatures, and the hand-to-hand is choreographed well. The accompanying death metal tracks are sorta chintzy, but still, the mayhem is slickly produced and fun to watch. On a similar note, the gore earns the same merits: well-done but corny in parts. The blood flows freely and there are some satisfactory kills, but lame CGI and few see-through gore effects (those arms sure did come off easy!) mar the experience. And the creature effects are creative, but far from believable
I'd say The Shadow Walkers is an effective low-budget action/horror film. Grove wisely chose to focus on the action and reveal the threadbare plot in short doses. This isn't a movie that's full of itself, and that's good. It wants to give you a good time watching a short dude who's good at kicking people in the head run through dark hallways with big-breasted women in lab coats.
The DVD is mediocre, sporting a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that at times looks faded. The 5.1 sound is loud and aggressive at some points and tinny and shallow in others. The only extra is a making-of feature called "Death to the Daywalkers." It's not bad.
There are stupid moments in this movie (once female scientist sprains her ankle on her high heel, but refuses to take them off even though 80% of the film involves full sprinting), but I'm still going to give it a moderate amount of love. The action is fast, the blood is ankle-deep and, well, that's about it.
Not guilty I suppose.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 91 Minutes
Release Year: 2005
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Making-of Documentary