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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Shadows of the Dead (2004)

Over the past decade, Vampires and Werewolves have been given a "humanized" treatment in movies and TV.  Rather than being the cold, sinister blood thirsty creatures of the night they used to be, they are now more human.  They have feelings, and a culture now- so much so that they're almost soap operatic in nature... and not as scary as they used to be when Mom would warn us about the vampire in the attic...

One creature of the night that has pretty much stayed the same has been the zombie... except for one film that I found that looks at the zombie in a whole different light...

John and Jennifer are a young couple hoping to enjoy a weekend away at their cabin.  After getting lost in the woods, they are attacked by a stranger who bites John.  Managing to escape, they reach their cabin and safety.  Unfortunately, they soon realize that some changes are taking place in their lives...

This movie presents us with an intellegent, and even thought provoking look at the zombie.  We all know that zombies are brainless, shambling corpses with only one thought: EAT THE LIVING!  But what few zombie movies explore is what it would be like to experience the change from living to undead... and remain concious throughout the whole thing.  "Shadows of the Dead" does this brilliantly.

The movie is more drama than pure horror, so is pretty slow.  Because of the slow pace however, you come to care about these two as they go through their changes- and are drawn into the story of how it affects their relationship as well.  There is some blood- it IS a horror movie after all, but it's used sparingly and effectively to move the story forward... it's not there just because it's fun to splash blood all over the set.  The dialogue can seem a bit stiff and bland at times... but no more than you'd find in most soap operas or dramas.

Despite the occaisonally blandness of the dialogue, I felt the acting was pretty good for a movie of such a low budget.  I really came to feel for both John (played by Jonathan Flanigan), and Jennifer (played by Beverly Hynds).  Jason Schwartz- as the pizza guy was funny to watch- I enjoyed his scene.  I also enjoyed Paul Kessler as the doctor that tries to find John's heartbeat... and fails.  The acting isn't Academy Award level, but suitably good for this purpose of this film.

The use of the single cabin (pretty much just one or two rooms of it actually) was very well done.  The director, Carl Lindbergh kept things interesting with lighting and camera angles.  There are some great shots where the cabin looks smokey with the light playing in it.  Really added to the mood and feel of the movie- as did the use of greys, blacks, browns and oranges for the sets, costumes, etc.  "Shadows of the Dead" really had a nice tone to it.

The zombie make-up for Jennifer wasn't great, but was still effective enough to give the impression of her muscles and skin shrinking on her face, giving her a pretty good skull look to her head.  With the use of bandages, contact lenses, fake blood smears, and a bit of make-up peeking through the bandages, the look they gave John was excellent in my opinion.  Seeing him look out through the window at the camera with the grey eyes and bloody bandages was creepy and made me wonder just how much of his face was really left.

While many horror fans will get bored with this film because of its slower pace, and minimal kills, those that enjoy interesting and creative looks at the creatures that scare us will probably enjoy this.  I'm going to place this movie in "The Good"

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