Director – Sheldon Wilson
Cast – Timothy V. Murphy, Rocky Marquette, Stan Kirsch, Lindsey Stoddart, Patty McCormack, Natalie Avital, Chris Hendrie, Tara Killian, Myron Natwick, Steve Eastin, John Kapelos, Christine Avila
Release Year – 2004
Reviewed by John of the Dead
I have heard positive things about Shallow Ground throughout the years, but I had stayed away from this watch mainly because it looked like the typical low-budget film with a cool DVD cover that you pass by at the rental store because you know it is crap. Well, thanks to my girlfriend wanting to see this film my interest was peaked and I decided to take the plunge into this watch despite the fact that I did not watch it with her afterall, and I hope she does not read this because I found Shallow Ground to be fairly enjoyable.
While preparing to close down a remote sheriff’s station in the middle of the woods deputies Stuart Dempsey and Laura Russel are taken aback when a naked boy covered in blood and clutching a hunting knife storms into the station. This occurs on the one year anniversary of the disappearance of sheriff Jack Shepherd’s former girlfriend, and he is summoned to the station to straighten things out. Jack must now confront the internal demons he has been harboring over his guilt stemming from his girlfriend’s disappearance as he tries desperately to identify the boy and the potential victims who’s blood adorns his body. However, once identified the mystery behind the boy grows to supernatural levels, and the sheriff and his deputies soon realize something much more sinister at hand has stumbled upon them.
Don’t you just love it when a horror film makes a statement right from the get-go? Well opening the film with a boy completely naked, completely covered in blood that obviously isn’t his, and clutching a long hunter’s knife busting into a sheriff’s station is a good way to get things going. The mystery element behind who the boy is is strong and holds steady throughout the first half of the film, with constant creative developments hitting the viewer as the officers try desperately to identify the boy in hopes that he holds a key to the disappearance of Jack’s girlfriend as well as several other disappearances from the surrounding area. Things really get going when they come across a big break in identifying the boy, which makes things awesome for the viewer and not-so-awesome for the deputies. It is then that the story delivers a positive supernatural element based on revenge, something I LOVE to see in films, and from then on out the story finishes strong. I must say though that it was the story that kept this film from accomplishing anything more than a borderline-positive rating, and that is due to its many faults. We get poor writing on occasion, as well as many “WTF?” scenes that did nothing to help the story. Thankfully the majority of what is written is good, and the rest is saved by writer/director Sheldon Wilson’s direction.
Sheldon sells the film very well with beautiful woodland sets that provide the perfect environment for a killer to hide, and the tranquility perceived is added irony to the horrific events that are ensuing. He often relies of trick camerawork/filming to add some creative shots to the mix, relying on fish-eye lenses, reverse-filming, and he even delivered positive live-action special FX that came with sweet kills and an utmost amount of gore. The acting performances could have been better, but this being a low-budget watch and the performances not being “THAT bad” I will not fault the film for it. However, and this is something that would possibly only bother me(a firearms enthusiast), why the hell is Jack Shepherd carrying around an unloaded Ruger Mini-14 while trying to catch the killer? The Mini-14 is a magazine-fed weapon, meaning that if there is no magazine there are no cartridges in the gun, and there is no magazine in the gun throughout the film. It could be that Mr. Wilson just wanted to add extra safety while filming with a real firearm, but an empty magazine would have been just as safe and been a cooler addition to the film, but once again I will not fault the film for that either, it isn’t a huge deal.
Overall, Shallow Ground is a borderline-positive watch that comes with a positive and well-paced story that despite its faults delivers some good original ideas and great horror as well. Sheldon Wilson compliments his story with OK direction, and executes the horror well, giving gorehounds a treat for sticking till the end.