Shadow (2009)

Shadow ReviewReviewed by Gareth Jones

Starring Jake Muxworthy, Nuot Arquint, Ottaviano Blitch, Gianpiero Cognoli

Directed by Federico Zampaglione

Italian pop star Federico Zampaglione (frontman of the hugely successful band Tiromancino) chooses the horror genre to make his second entry into the world of cinema with Shadow. Nobody can deny the sheer enormity of Italy’s contribution to the genre with a number of master filmmakers but unfortunately, with Shadow, Zampaglione proves that wearing your cinematic heritage and influences on your sleeve simply isn’t enough to produce a good film.

Plot wise, the film follows David (Jake Muxworthy), a young man returning from the war in Iraq taking some time out for his favourite pastime – mountain biking. At the recommendation of a friend, he visits the mountainous “The Shadow” in Europe. Within the first few minutes, David has fallen foul of a pair of hyperbolically brutish British hunters while protecting the beautiful Angeline (Karina Testa) from their unwanted advances. Shortly after, David and Angeline become biking buddies (and eventually romantic ones too) but a violent chase ensues when Angeline prevents the hunters from shooting a buck.

After some moments of mini-Deliverance, the four of them find themselves lost in an unnaturally foggy section of woods – a section which the hunters’ dog won’t even enter. From there, the dog is found charred (albeit completely unexplained at this point), David falls and is knocked unconscious, and the two hunters are attacked by an off-screen presence.

Cue David and the hunters waking up tied, side-by-side, to operating tables with strange, skinny, bald, Richard O’Brian lookalike Mortis (Nuot Arquint) conducting horrific torturous acts on them (occasionally taking a break to lick a toad and space out – I shit you not). David escapes and, with the others, goes on the hunt for Angeline while being pursued by the sickle-wielding psycho. This leads to an abrupt, and quite frankly “out of nowhere”, ending resembling Jacob’s Ladder, but with absolutely none of the depth that that film contains.

Each of the actors do relatively well in their parts, with Karina Testa being the standout of the lot. The two hunters begin to grate after a while, simply due to their by-the-numbers dirty, scowling, backwoods British characters (at least, I think they were meant to be British….). Our villain, Mortis, is never particularly threatening either – basically just swanning about out of his mind from toad-licking.

Gore wise, there isn’t a whole lot here. The best effect overall is the removal of one character’s left eyelids however it is soon covered up. From there, the majority of violence is implied with slashing sickles and splashing blood.

A few moments strongly show the influence that the Italian greats – Bava and Argento especially – have had on Zampaglione, but while he may have an eye for visuals (some of the scenic views are breathtaking), his storytelling needs a lot of work. The film simply comes to an abrupt and unexpected end and throws in the final twist scene. Those who’ve scene Jacob’s Ladder will know almost immediately what it is, and it really just drives home how absolutely pointless the film has been up until this point. Even the tagline (“Reality can be sicker than nightmares”), unless it is attempting to make a statement about the war or tie in with the only twisted visual joke the film presents in the final frames, is pointless in the context of what actually occurs in the movie.

One good thing about the film is that its 90-minute runtime seems to go by much faster than it is, and the score (also handled mainly by Zampaglione) deserves mention for its effectiveness. An early chase scene contains a thumping bass mimicking a heartbeat which works very well. If you’re watching this at home with a decent surround system your neighbors will hate you.

If you’re a Tiromancino fan, or looking for a few decent visuals, you might want to take in a viewing – chances are though (as Zampaglione himself accepted during a post-screening Q&A) that most fans of the music won’t be the least bit interested in a movie like this. Otherwise, Shadow simply isn’t worth the time it takes out of your life. The rebirth of Italian horror this ain’t.

1 1/2 out of 5

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Gareth Jones

Horror is my jam, yo.