The Shadows Movie Review
Written by Miloš Jovanović
DVD released by Midnight Releasing
Directed by Sabrina Mansfield
Written by Saul Owens
2011, 83 minutes, Not rated
DVD released on January 4th, 2011
Nalita Murray as Nadia
Alan Collett as Adam
Elizabeth O'Brick as Catherine
Vaz Andreas as Jack
Jennifer Boarini as Rachael
Five friends — Nadia, Adam, Catherine, Jack and Rachael — are out on the sea, enjoying themselves. However, their fortunes take a drastic turn following an accident which leaves them stranded on an isolated island, the sole facility of which is a creaky old lighthouse. As they try to reach for help, they realize that the lighthouse might have a history of its own — some time ago, the nearby waters were host to ferocious pirates, whose ghosts now may (or may not) haunt the lighthouse tower. A struggle for life ensues, and the odds are firmly stacked against the fivesome.
The Shadows, a debut feature from the director Sabrina Mansfield, is an interesting little indie chiller which, sadly, fails to deliver on its full promise. Shot essentially on one location and using atmosphere rather than visual shocks to deliver its message, this film, like many other indies, suffers from the ambition to be feature length without enough material to cover for.
The beginning is promising enough. Five characters in a claustrophobic setting was a winning formula for many films before this one, and as the film unwraps, it starts drawing from familiar sources — the pirate background borrows from, say, The Fog, while the more hectic finale is a distant cousin of Night of the Living Dead. And all that would be fine, if the better part of the middle wasn't borrowing from, oh, say, Melrose Place.
Faced with a script which has insufficient "meat", Mansfield stretches the film into an unwieldy 83 minutes, inserting some questionable material within the storyline. At least 25 to 30 minutes are lost on a love triangle between three characters, and that invokes some less than stellar soap opera dialog. This segment, which is split in two lengthy, talky sequences, detracts from the main plotline and comes off rather clumsy. The payoff somewhat redeems this element, but still, it feels unnecessary.
The character of Elena, a Hispanic girl who also seeks refuge at the lighthouse, is another puzzling addition. Elena obviously has some ties to the pirate curse, but she is somewhat underwritten and many scenes are just padding.
Much of failures are redeemed by good acting. All five leads are above average for the production level, with no weak links within. The two characters which are later singled out as central for the story — Adam (Alan Collett) and Nadia (Nalita Murray) — do an especially good job here.
Mansfield displays competent direction on her behalf, as most of the shots are well staged and accurately lined up. The editing — which, as I like to mention often, is a common culprit in indie futility — is competently handled and the occasional CGI effects work surprisingly well. However, at times, the cinematography is relentlessly dark, to the point of not being able to clearly see what's happening. We get it, it's a dark & gloomy horror picture, but there's no point in overdoing it.
Although the film does labour for the better part of it, the ending is creatively staged and the final impression is better than the rest might have merited. Thanks to the wrap-up, this film deserves a full half grade (ha! Full half! Ha! oh...nevermind) higher than I originally intended for it. Still, if this was a 30 to 40 minute short, it would have worked much better — the old Twilight Zone episode (which was actually a French short film shown under the TZ banner) An Occurence at Owl Creek Bridge did this efficiently in that timeframe, and so could The Shadows.
Video, Audio and Special features:
Video, audio and special features will not be graded as this was a screener.