Shadow Walkers, The (DVD)

Shadow Walkers reviewStarring Jason Coviello, Jennifer Summers, Clay Adams, Cortini Mullin, Trygve Lode

Directed by Mark Steven Grove

Distributed by Lionsgate Home Entertainment

Lionsgate can usually be counted on to deliver the goods in terms of DVD box art – not this time. I’m usually complaining about how Lionsgate releases a truly awful movie with really sweet artwork (sometimes not keeping in tune with the film itself) that’s sure to catch the eye of unsuspecting movie watchers. But this time I actually find myself rather amazed by how bad the DVD artwork is. The generic artwork they’ve gone with makes The Shadow Walkers look like some sort of ghost movie or demonic possession flick, not at all reflective of the film’s contents in ways even more so than what’s typical of them. Then again, given how mediocre the movie’s monsters are, perhaps not selling it on basis of the physical appearance of the actual Shadow Walkers was a wise marketing choice on their part.

The titular Shadow Walkers are the product a military experiment gone wrong (do military experiments in the movies ever go right?) that was designed to genetically alter soldiers into real world Captain Americas. Instead, it transforms them into rubbery goblin-faced ghouls with long black talons for stabbing and slashing. The make-up work for the monsters is shoddy to say the least. Imagine a demon from the show “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” had that show been produced back in 1980. It’s just people with ghoulish green fang-faced latex appliances so obviously make-up that you can even see where the green of the make-up ends and the pink of their actual neck skin begins. Their hands have long pointy black talons for fingernails, but their arms generally look like ordinary skin, maybe a little hint of make-up on some to look extra veiny. When you’re noticing the perfectly normal-looking bald spot atop the head of a monster with supposedly discolored skin, then it’s safe to say the make-up job just isn’t selling the monsters convincingly.

In the way that people dress as Klingons and such at fandom conventions, I kept thinking that this was the sort of make-up I’d see on someone at such a convention if that someone were to show up with their own homemade Shadow Walkers costume except in this case, the movie’s creatures look homemade to begin with. Simply put, the Shadow Walkers themselves don’t look even remotely believable and despite talk of how the mutation is supposed to make them superior killing machines, they all come across as just a bunch of uncoordinated zombie-types that hack and slash clumsily at people with their claws. As I’ve said numerous times, a monster movie where the monster fails to deliver is no movie at all.

The military has decided to shut down an experiment designed to create a new breed of super-soldier due to the project’s lack of results. By shut it down, they stage a commando raid on the research facility, gas everyone, and leave them all sealed in: creatures, scientists, lab technicians, and military personnel. Everyone wakes up with amnesia, but don’t worry because the one character still in full control of his faculties will quickly tell them who’s who and what’s what. A series of flashback scenes will also help spell out the backstory about the mutant soldier project, the gruff general calling for it to be shut down, and other elements of the backstory that do nothing to make the current story any more compelling. In order to escape the subterranean lab, the characters then have to trek deeper into the industrial basement because lord knows a movie can never have enough scenes of people lumbering among dank pipeworks.

The Shadow Walkers reviewThe Shadow Walkers derives its title from the light sensitive creatures lurking in the shadows of the facility; yet, the lighting is rarely ever dark enough to suit the concept. I guess calling the film “The Dimly-Lit Walkers” wouldn’t have had the same ring.

Character-wise, I can’t even recall a single name. I remember one guy was supposed to be sort of the macho action hero, although his unimpressive fight scenes and seeing him hit a concrete wall that momentarily buckled in very un-concrete wall fashion did nothing to make me take this guy seriously.

I recall a female character that gets bit by one of the Shadow Walkers and starts becoming one herself, but instead of putting her out of her misery, action guy wants to try and save her because she’s his ex-wife and in keeping with the steady stream of clichés on display here, potential romance is rekindled. Her character also becomes a forced action heroine, using her increasingly superhuman abilities to further demonstrate what unimpressive creatures the Shadow Walkers are.

Of course, there’s always the obligatory human villain, a mad scientist this time who also wants to keep her alive because he’s determined to see his project succeed and she’s got the key to his success within her. His already hammy acting must have gotten super-enhanced by his own exposure to the mutation because as he himself becomes one of the creatures, his overacting increases twofold.

Aside from those three characters, everyone else – human and not human – are all interchangeable.

Things get so bad by the third act that the filmmakers suddenly toss in some bad slapstick comedy involving a nerdy tech guy who keeps spilling paperwork and a confusing fight scene between soldiers and some masked soldiers that goes on for far too long.

Speaking of going on too long, if the movie had ended immediately following the events that occur during its promising opening credits sequence, then I could be a lot more positive about The Shadow Walkers. But no, they insisted on tacking on an additional 80+ minutes.

If you’ve seen one movie where a group of characters find themselves trapped in an industrial basement with murderous monster-mutant-zombie creatures, well, you may not have seen them all, but you’ve surely seen The Shadow Walkers. This one brings nothing new to the table and fails to make anything worthwhile from its unoriginal aspects. As tedious as it is unimaginative, The Shadow Walkers is a just your quintessential substandard straight-to-DVD monster movie.

1 out of 5

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Jon Condit

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