Friday, July 6, 2012

The Shadow of Death (2012)

I might be honest directly: I've always been extremely suspicious when it comes to new shot-on-video slashers, made in the backwoods of someone's home with friends and family as actors. But that's basically the same suspicion I get when I see that Tim Burton's gonna make a "Quirky big budget indie movie with lots of make-up and neo-gothic curls in the set design, starring Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter". It's just healthy, because you never know what you gonna get - except in Tim Burton's case, you know it WILL be crap. The real talent, the real creative film forces you'll find nowadays outside the Hollywood system - for example in your own backwoods. Gav Chuckie Steel has never made a movie before, but it didn't stop him from taking a camera and shooting a whole damn feature length movie, The Shadow of Death, on his spare time - which was hard because of it's full time night job and taking care of two kids at the same time! 26 pages and shooting on weekends grew much bigger and soon he made his first horror movie. That's very sweet, but is it any good? Read on...

Debra, Jamie and Nancy (Debra Hill, Jamie Lee Curtis and Nancy Loomis?) meets up with their stoner friend Dan (who just got a nasty infection in his dick) to got out in the woodlands to score some weed from a Rastafari friend of his. But someone is lurking out there in the forest, dressed in monk suit and being terribly angry, killing of everyone coming out there - often by impaling them on the nearest unexpected object!

Yeah, that's basically is. It's a standard generic slasher, but differs from many other SOV movies by actually having a lot of talent behind and in front of the camera. Chuckie Steel loves his camera and uses it in every creative way he can find. The opening shot, introducing our main characters, is a tribute to Argento's extreme close-ups, with a camera going around all the objects on the table and in the hands of the characters. The dialogue is fast and witty and the actors - I haven't learned their names yet - is very charming and charismatic. Maybe not amazingly fantastic and realistic, not yet, but if they can star in yet another movie we WILL see some stars coming out from this group of darlings.

It's mostly the passion for filmmaking that catchers my attention in The Shadow of Death, because there's very little budget. I would say the budget is so small that it wouldn't even count as a budget, just spare money they had laying around on the kitchen table. But this also sparks the energy and the editing, photography is all over the place - but still feels like it's on the right place.

How about the gore then? Yeah, it's pretty gory in the old-school way. I don't want to spoil the effects, but they're graphic and creative and a little bit nasty. The comedy, by the way, is more in the school of Shaun of the Dead, Inbred and Severance - very British and more in the characters than in the situations, which is of course the best way to handle the mix between comedy and horror.

I need to whine a little bit. after around forty minutes the elegant pacing stops brutally and we're forced to watch a scene where three of the characters tell each other stories around the fire place. The scene itself isn't bad, but it's too long - so long that one of the characters even cracks a joke about it. I realize it's there because they needed a bridge to a more darker and serious atmosphere, but it also fucks around with my attention-span. That's it, that's my only complain. The rest of the movie suffers from the usual problems like no-budget movies have, but that's very fine for me and it's nothing serious.

Ah, and I almost forgot. The excellent soundtrack! Which reminds me to contact the director to force him to send me an mp3 of the title track. Like almost everything else in this movie very retro, very Wicker Man. It's both very inappropriate for a slashers and perfect at the same time. 

I'm pretty sure The Shadow of Death will get good distribution sooner or later and it's worth it because it's a fine little comedy/slasher with good gore and a wonderful bunch of characters.

The only thing that makes me bitter is that it's of course made in a different country which even more proves how boring Sweden is when it comes to independent filmmaking!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"except in Tim Burton's case, you know it WILL be crap."

I have to say I still enjoy some of his latter films.

They may not be brilliant but Burton still delivers.....I still enjoy them.

"Chuckie Steel loves his camera and uses it in every creative way he can find."

I think is the problem that some debut feature directors don´t understand.....that they should use the camera in a creative way.

Look at Raimis The Evil Dead (1981), Friedkins The Birthday Party (1968).

"The only thing that makes me bitter is that it's of course made in a different country which even more proves how boring Sweden is when it comes to independent filmmaking!"

Maybe...but I think things are slowly changing....we will see some genrefilms with better quality.

Good review, Ninja.