Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Shadow (2009)

Not to be confused with the dozens of other films sharing the title.

Warning: I'm going to spoil the film's ending with righteous wrath. That's what you get from me when you apply this particular plot twist.

US soldier David (Jake Muxworthy) has survived his stint in Iraq and goes on a mountain biking trip in Italy. He turns out to be a bit of a knight in shining armour when he helps another mountain biker, Angeline (Karina Testa), escape the rather rude advances of two redneck type persons (Chris Coppola and Ottaviano Blitch) in a mountain cafe.

Though everyone goes off in different directions, David and Angeline meet up again soon enough, and seem quite taken with each other. Alas, the probable couple eventually meet their redneck acquaintances again too, and those guys are really of the more murderous persuasion, especially after Angeline adds insult to injury by ruining the slaughter of a deer. The bikers manage to escape the unpleasant attentions of their (probably unwashed) enemies for a time, but flee into very peculiar - and supposedly haunted - territory, where fog hangs creepily and compasses don't work anymore. Hardly arrived there, Angeline disappears (and if you think the film's setting up something for later, you can get yourself a cookie, though what it is setting up is probably more stupid than you'd care to imagine). A shadowy shape stalks and knocks out David and his two pursuers one after the other.

When the three men gain consciousness again, they find themselves in the hands and house of the local sadist toad-licking (not an euphemism) Nazi (Nuot Arquint), who is only too happy to have a little fun with his unexpected visitors.

Federico Zampaglione's Shadow begins watchable enough. Although I have probably seen enough backwoods slasher movies to last for a life time, I have no problems with watching another one if it is executed with a basic amount of competence (as Shadow is) and presents its generic series of chases and violence in impressive or moody landscapes (again, as Shadow does). Sure, it would be nice if the film's rednecks had a more interesting motivation for their dastardly deeds than being country people, but I am used to expecting not too much of my movies.

Consequently, I felt somewhat entertained by Zampaglione's film up to the point when it turned from generic backwoods movie into a generic piece of light torture porn, with all the bad metalcore video shots that implies (though, admittedly, without whoosh or shaky cuts). I find it somewhat difficult to be creeped out by a thin, hairless guy who moves with all the menace and speed of a tranquilized Gamera, especially when a film decides to show him getting his drug kicks by licking toads. Toad-Licker's torture preferences and the way they are staged also seem damn lackluster and perfunctory. In truth, there's no way for me to take Toad-Licker even the slightest bit seriously.

Probably even worse is the fact that the film just slows to a crawl once Toady appears, with basically nothing happening that anyone having watched just a handful of horror movies in the last few years hasn't seen before in better movies, only happening slower here.

And then, there's the ending. You see, everything we saw (yes, even the scenes without David) was a dream dreamt by David in a field hospital during an operation. The redneck guys were his brutal and sadistic squad mates, who got him hurt after an argument about their civilian-slaughtering ways, and Angeline is the nurse who saved his life. And Toad-Licker must have been a metaphor - FOR DEATH. But oh noes! David will never ride his mountain bike again, because he has lost both of his legs.

Honestly, I don't even know what to say about that other than: directors, don't use the hoary old "it was all a dream" excuse to explain the illogical crapness of your films! It didn't work when the first Neanderthal storyteller tried to pull it somewhere around the invention of fire, and it sure doesn't work any better now; unless you're as good an artist as Ambrose Bierce, or, you know, are using the dream stuff to make an actual point. But when you're just looking for an excuse for making a film that's wholly made from misunderstood clichés you took from other films that again took these clichés from other movies, you're in no position to try to be clever. I suggest just making a coherent film, or one that is actually weird and dreamlike.


No comments: