Shunned, The (2005)

The Shunned review (click to see it bigger!)Starring Kurt Hanover, Adam Gaitan, Deb Keeney

Directed by C. M. Downs

The closing credits of The Shunned include a statement about supporting independent filmmakers. I’m all for supporting independent filmmakers. Unfortunately, I’m also all about giving an honest opinion about a movie that isn’t always what the independent filmmakers want to hear. If not for this film’s Wild West setting and the performance of one of the lead actors there really wouldn’t be much of anything about The Shunned to speak positively about.

Marshall Prewitt arrives in a small dustbowl town to meet with the local sheriff about a family’s brutal murder that he’s come to investigate. Braggadocios Sheriff Davis gives the Marshall the whole sordid tale of his investigation into the murders. Seems this entire family was dismembered; no murder weapon found and no clue who did it or why. After discussing the facts of the case, the two take a ride out to the house where the murders occurred, pausing along the way to have another conversation repeating the facts of the case with only a few new tidbits tossed in. When they arrive at the crime scene they again go over the facts of the case, this time with brief flashbacks of each of the murders. Then the two head to the local saloon for a drink, actually a way to introduce some other denizens of the small town as potential future victims. Toss in another murder or two and we finally reach discussion of James Parker, a local suffering from severe facial skin deformities who was cruelly taunted and ultimately shunned by the townsfolk. Parker is supposedly dead – supposedly. Marshall Prewitt continues trying to put the pieces together while another ax murder or two occurs. The last 10-15 minutes boils down to characters slowly skulking about the Parker house while we the viewers await something, anything, to happen.

I do have to give the filmmakers some credit for at least trying to be different by setting the film in the Old West. But factor out the Wild West setting and what you’re left with is a dull murder mystery – that doesn’t have much of any mystery to it – punctuated by moments of uninspired slasher moviedom that all eventually evolves or devolves (depending on your point-of-view) into your typical crazed killer holed up in a decrepit building picking people off. The movie has some very brief flashes of camp value but mostly this is just a thoroughly uneventful and uninteresting production that won’t satisfy fans of horror films or westerns.

The majority of the film consists of scenes involving only the characters of Marshall Prewitt and Sheriff Davis and it’s impossible not to take note of the difference in the two actors’ performances. Sheriff Davis is played by Kurt Hanover, a fairly decent actor who actually manages to breathe some life into the role – about the only sign of life that emanates from the movie. Then there’s Marshall Prewitt, played by a guy who constantly speaks in such a bland monotone voice so hushed I often found him hard to understand at times. That the movie’s main character who is in almost every scene of the movie is a total bore who’s dialogue is barely audible much of the time does not bode well for the film as a whole. That the actor playing a traveling lawman in the Wild West doesn’t look particularly adept at horseback riding is also bad sign.

Given the tiny cast and whole lot of nothing going on much of the time I have a feeling that the laptop computer on which this review was written on was quite possibly more expensive than the budget of the film being reviewed. The grainy, washed out, sometimes brownish tint to the cinematography does give the film a distinct look. Unfortunately, it also adds to the feeling that what you’re really watching is someone’s fancy amateur film.

At least the make-up work on the killer, fake as it may be, is interesting. Although, he does look less like someone suffering from some sort of skin disease and more like a post-apocalyptic mutant from a cheap Mad Max knock-off.

At least this film where not a heck of a lot happens only clocks in at a scant 70 minutes, followed by some of the slowest moving end credits ever that succeed in dragging the official running time out another five minutes. I’m just glad the film itself didn’t slog along as slow as those closing credits did otherwise I might have used an ax on myself.

The Shunned will be released by Anchor Bay in January. I’ve noticed that Anchor Bay of late has really gotten in on the Lionsgate/Sony/Genius Products action, doing their part to help flood the market with low budget, even lower quality horror fare that probably shouldn’t have even gotten a wide DVD distribution in the first place. I remain 100% convinced that the oversaturation of such shot-on-digital, damn near backyard productions is eventually going to cause the DVD horror market to go bust sooner rather than later.

1 out of 5

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Jon Condit

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