Sunday, October 2, 2011

31 Flavors of Horror #2: Shadow

 I've been saving this review for quite a while because I think it's a fresh take on the dreamy horror of Italian directors like Argento and Fulci, and the brutally abrupt tradition of bleak American horror directors like Tobe Hooper and Meir Zarchi... not to mention just crazy, insane Euro-horror goodness.If you haven't seen this one yet, and you're up for a bleak, "WTF" ride, I think you can't go wrong with Shadow. 

As a side-note, I actually discussed this film review, originally written for DVD Snapshot, in an interview, of all places.

Got the job, too...

31 Flavors of Horror #2:

Official synopsis:

Director and co-writer Frederico Zampaglione's terrifying film recalls Sam Peckinpah's ferocious Straw Dogs and Tobe Hooper's horror classic The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, yet if feels as immediate as today's headlines. Jake Muxworthy plays a young soldier who embarks on a mountain-biking trip, walks into a cafe and meets the love of his life (Karina Testa). Unfortunately, he also meets a pair of violent hunters who make him their prey after he defends the young woman from their sleazy advances. But what appears at first to be a vicious cat-and-mouse game set in treacherous terrain turns into a full-blown nightmare when these adversaries become the captives of a mountain dweller who's depraved plans for them soon become all too apparent. Both a relentless horror film and a searing account of the brutal after-effects of war, Shadow is a scream-inducing descent into an abyss of unspeakable terror.

Our take:

The bad guys in Shadow are so obnoxious from the moment they show up that you might be tempted to tune out after the first scene. Between snotty bullying and impetuous murderous rage, they're cartoonishly evil backwoods rednecks with a European military spin, out to give someone a bad time.

David and Angeline meet the bullies, then “meet cute” biking in “The Pass of the Shadow,” a forest seemingly in Eastern Europe. He's evading memories of Iraq and surprised to hit it off with a beautiful French girl. They're quickly beset by murderous bullies (charmingly) named Fred and Buck. After the ensuing chase, it's almost over-kill when the second villain arrives, and they all become prey for someone even worse. From here Shadow stops reminding one of Deliverance and Straw Dogs and slides squarely into the Hostel land of “torture porn.”

After this shift, things get surreal, dark and grisly. There's not much gore by recent standards, but what's delivered is effective. The real villain, the emaciated Mortis, is so creepy and disturbing, even jaded gore hounds may turn away. He looks like death warmed over and keeps his own languid pace. You'll go from appreciating the visuals to not wanting to look at the screen.

Shadow reveals itself a throw back to stylish Italian giallos of the 70s and 80s, with moments of illogic, black humor and even rock during the chase scenes. Crisp visuals of a cold, damp Italian forest convey the chill with viable condensation on the lens. From the muddy, realistic beginnings to the perverse dark twists, it starts out Sam Peckinpah but ends up squarely Dario Argento. There's even a thrilling visual stolen wholesale from Tenebre. There's even a final twist that works solely because it introduces the idiosyncratic internal logic of giallos. On the whole, Shadow is a dark horror throwback that's surprisingly and stylishly entertaining.

Special Features:

Shadow is presented in 2.35:1 Anamorphic widescreen and English 5.1 dolby digital surround sound. There are English SDH and Spanish subtitles, trailers for this and other films, and a 21 minute “Making of” documentary.

Shadow is made up of familiar parts: a little First Blood, dash of Deliverance, a big scoop of Hostel and a surprise dollop of Giallo. It's also an updated and twisty throwback to 80s Italian gore films worth a viewing for one genuinely creepy bad guy.

Overall Picture:
Movie: B
Extras: B

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