Thursday, July 17, 2014

In short: Night Shadows (1984)

aka Mutant

After a road encounter with the least pleasant human inhabitants of a small rural community, city-slicker brothers Josh (Wings Hauser) and Mike (Lee Montgomery) find themselves a bit stranded there, at least for a night and a day or so. Alas, they’ve picked quite the wrong time for their inadvertent stay, for the toxic waste an Evil Corporation has been dumping in the area is causing a peculiar sickness in many people around. Mike disappears quite early, and soon Josh finds himself teaming up with the local doctor (Jennifer Warren), the alcoholic sheriff (eternal sheriff Bo Hopkins), and romance-ready school teacher Holly (Jody Medford) against a whole bunch of blue-faced zombies with acid-bleeding, blood-sucking hands.

On a good day, Night Shadows’ director John ‘Bud’ Cardos was a perfectly decent man of his profession, filming straightforward plots in a straightforward manner, the unflinching professional of cinema. He had one of those days when he shot the film at hand, and while the result won’t win any originality prizes, it is an entertaining little variation on the eternal Night of the Living Dead shape.

Not surprisingly, this doesn’t have much – if any at all – of the political resonance of Romero’s film, but it goes through most of the expected zombie movie plot beats with a neat sense of pacing, doesn’t overstay its welcome, and generally knows how to be a fun time. Additionally, it features a lot of silly yet pleasing blue-faced zombie make-up, and does from time to time manage a fright scene or two archetypal enough to make the long-suffering horror fan look up with interest. There’s a really surprisingly ruthless mass child zombie scene in here, as well as a neat little monster under the bed variation early on – as long as you don’t stop to think about the practicalities of both of them, of course. But when has the stuff nightmares are made of ever cared about practicality?

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