Shadow: Dead Riot (DVD)

Starring Tony Todd, Carla Greene, Erin Brown, Tatianna Butler, and Andrea Langi

Directed by Derek Wan

Released by Media Blasters Home Entertainment

As a means to create something new and original, films will cross genres at times. Comedy is mixed with horror, musicals intermingle with drama, and so on and so forth. Sub-genres sometimes get crossed as well. Let’s look at two of them: zombie and women in prison films. If that’s not an obscure enough combination, how about we sprinkle in some kung-fu action. What’s all this add up to? Three words — Shadow: Dead Riot. To be honest, I’m not even sure what that title means. Okay, the lead character played by Tony Todd is named Shadow, and at one point the dead do riot within the prison walls. Maybe I’m just being a bit too analytical. If you are the type of person that likes to try and make too much sense of things, odds are you will not dig on this film in the slightest bit. However, if you want brain dead action, buckets of gore, and a ton of nude chicks, brother, you’ve just struck DVD gold!

The story centers on super badass serial killer, Shadow. He’s been imprisoned after committing dozens of murders and is about to walk his last mile to Lethal Injectionville. Like all truly evil beings, Shadow is not planning on going gently into the night. Needless to say, the execution doesn’t go as planned, and before you know it, a full-scale riot has broken out in the prison. Mayhem ensues for about five or so minutes, but then the guards get a handle on things by shooting everyone in sight. Man, what’s a warden to do with so many bodies?! Simple. Dig a mass grave and toss ’em all in together. Fast-forward twenty years, and the prison has been turned into a women’s rehabilitation facility. We’re then introduced to our hard-boiled protagonist, Solitaire. Solitaire is doing time for killing the man she assumed killed her mom. She just wants to be left alone (hence her name) while she serves out her time, but as you’d expect, it isn’t long before she’s embroiled in some Oz-like drama. Things only get worse from there as a little prison fight bloodshed on the aforementioned mass grave soon has not only Shadow, but a horde of living dead convicts, rampaging through the jail in search of . . . In search of . . . In search of reasons for more nudity and bloodshed! Bravo!

Shadow: Dead Riot is a really hard film to review. On my guilty pleasure scale it would rate near the top. The plain and simple truth is that it’s just not a good movie. However, you can’t help but watch transfixed as boobs bounce, ludicrous dialogue is spewed, and buckets of gore are tossed around with great vigor. Surprisingly, the acting is decent overall, most notably Erin Brown as the innocent Crystal, Cat Miller as the kind-hearted pregnant inmate whose baby figures prominently in the zombie subplot, and Andre Langi as the lesbo guard who’s just looking for a good time. The weakest link is definitely the female warden. It’s not the actress’ fault her character was so poorly written, and she does the best she can with what she’s given.

Shadow: Dead Riot knows the audience that it is made for. It never attempts to be a good film, and that’s what works for it. This flick was made for the lowest common denominator and is proud of it. As well it should be too. Films don’t always have to be riddled with niceties to be good or, in this case, delightfully bad. It hearkens back to classic so bad they’re good films like Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky. Especially with its sometimes brilliant fight choreography. The brawls in this film, both human-on-human and human-on-zombie, are inspired.

Next to the fight scenes the zombies really steal the show. These are of the shambling Romero and Fulci variety. Speaking of which, if you look closely and are paying attention, you’ll see a couple of familiar faces! Zombie Number One, Bill Hinzman, can be found up and walking again, and he brings along the boat zombie from Fulci’s Zombie, Captain Haggerty. It’s great to see these old ghouls doing their thing, and their respective make-ups are near perfect representations of their forays into Zombiedom. As a matter of fact, just about all of the zombies are pretty cool looking. You’ll notice that if you can pry your brain away from thoughts of lesbianism and nudity. It’s hard, or at least something is hard, but try anyway!

The DVD itself is pretty standard stuff. You get an image gallery, a trailer, and a sixteen-minute making of. The only thing that troubles me about this release is that it is rated R. Don’t get me wrong; the gore is frequent and ample, but there were a couple of scenes that seemed to have been trimmed down a bit. Or this could just be bad editing. It is a low budget feature, so who knows?!

At the end of the day one thing is certain: This film sucks and at the same time is strangely endearing. I was never bored and couldn’t wait to see what type of absurd scenario or splatter effect I would be treated to next. If you can turn your brain on auto pilot for a while, Shadow: Dead Riot is a can’t miss gory treat. If not, you’ll soon realize that what you’re watching is as terrible as the Evil Dread Wig of Tony Todd™.

Special Features
Image gallery
Behind the scenes featurette
Theatrical trailer
Trailer gallery

2 out of 5

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Steve Barton

You're such an inspiration for the ways that I will never, ever choose to be.