Dead Shadows
"Dead Shadows is very much a case of style over substance."

Scientifically they're immensely valuable. Historically, however, they have often been seen as harbingers of evil, and if you're a dedicated film fan, you'll know that the impending arrival of a comet means it's time to batten down the hatches. Halley's comet has previous for seeding the Earth with alien monsters (Lifeforce), so what unfolds here will come as no surprise to genre fans. The only character who's prepared for it, however, is shy young recluse Chris (Fabian Wolfrom), who lost his parents to a previous astronomical event and fully intends to sit this one out in the safety of his apartment. Until, that is, a curiously contrived encounter with an attractive neighbour leads him straight into the path of danger.

Badly let down by an English dubbed version which should be avoided at all costs (there is a subtitled version available on the DVD), Dead Shadows is very much a case of style over substance, not strong on plot but big on creature design, and as such it's likely to find a solid following. The mutant humans whose bad party etiquette guarantees Chris a bad night are based on creatures from popular comic Morbus Gravis and are of variable quality. Infectious worms behind it all recall James Gunn's Slither and various early Cronenberg films, notably Rabid. Some scenes have the schlocky character of Re-Animator but are played out more sadistically, and halfway through the action we encounter a chimeric spider woman who looks more like something out of a late edition Dungeons and Dragons Monster Manual. This sits a little uneasily beside attempts at seriously creepy body horror. When the film is described as Lovecraftian, it's worth keeping in mind that it resembles the author's earlier, adjective-happy shorts rather than the later, more sophisticated tales for which he is usually remembered.

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Making up for the patchiness of the effects is equally patchy but sometimes very impressive cinematography, which gives the film a visual quality its script sadly cannot live up to. Early party scenes highlight director Cholewa's talent and there's some decent early character work, but beyond the initial concept, nobody really seems to have thought through where the story will go. The fight scenes are adequate, at least whilst John Fallon's neighbourhood tough is on the scene. Wolfrom shows promise in the lead. Other characters, sadly, are underdeveloped, and the action soon subsides into a lot of random running about. There are no shocks that we haven't seen before. Female characters are reduced to victims or passive hangers-on, whilst Chris' transformation into a fighter - despite the other ways in which he's changing - doesn't really convince. It also makes him notably less interesting as Wolfrom has less to work with.

Made on a low budget and shot in just three weeks (though most of its effects were constructed afterwards), Dead Shadows isn't a film of which it would be fair to expect a great deal. Its monsters and gore will be enough to satisfy some viewers, but there's a sense that all involved could have done much better given a proper shot at it.

Reviewed on: 22 Jul 2015
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A young man whose parents were killed as a comet passed finds people acting strangely as another comet appoaches.

Director: David Cholewa

Writer: Vincent Julé

Starring: Gilles Barret, Margaux Devy, Sylvain Dubois, John Fallon

Year: 2012

Runtime: 75 minutes

Country: France


Dead By Dawn 2013

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