Director – Federico Zampaglione
Cast – Jake Muxworthy, Karina Testa, Nuot Arquint, Chris Coppola, Ottaviano Blitch
Release Year -2009
Reviewed by John of the Dead
I was stoked to give Shadow a watch because this was the first modern day Italian horror film I had come across in quite some time. Italy made a name for itself in the 60, 70s, and 80s for their beautiful and gory horror films, and I had high hopes that Shadow would bring Italy back to the playing field that their Euro counterparts Spain and France have taken over, but that was not fully the case with this one. While Shadow gave me a cool story with some great scenes of horror, it was not as fantastic as I expected it to be, and left much potential on the table with its borderline-positive end result.
When David, a solder who recently completed a tour of duty in the Middle East, takes to the mountains to enjoy some bike riding and alone time, he comes across the girl of his dreams, Angeline. David and Angeline hit things off right away, but soon enough they butt heads with two local hunters and find themselves in a race for their lives. However, David’s horrors are just beginning as an even more sinister enemy is hiding within the thralls of the mountain…
Well I went in expecting an Italian slasher film, and I was given much more than that. Written by Italian rock star brothers Federico Zampaglione and Domenico Zampaglione, of the band Tiromancino, the story of a war veteran venturing into the wilderness for relaxation from the war-torn world he just left was an interesting idea that I had yet to see used in the genre, and it was made even more awesome when the survival element was thrown in when David and Angeline are forced to evade the two psycho hunters they severely pissed off. The first act plays heavily on the development of David and Angeline, as well as the survival element, and once the second act kicks in we are given the true jist of the horror involved. It is then that we are introduced to the REAL antagonist of the film, a savage beast/human with a taste for sadistic torture of his victims. I found this second act to be highly engaging and consisting of great horror, especially the torture that the killer’s victims were exposed to. Torture porn is overdone these days, but the acts the victims were exposed to were pretty darn creative and consisted of horror I had yet to see used, and that is always a plus in my book. These first two acts moved very well, and had me expecting utter chaotic awesomeness for the third act, but sadly this story did not deliver. Instead we were given some poor character usage that resulted in poor pacing, and to make matters worse the climax was a very unsatisfying one. The final sequence came out of left field, and while I do not mind surprise endings I found this one to be a bit cheap in quality and truly felt that it was a letdown despite the heavy decay already occurring during the third act.
Co-writer/director Federico Zampaglione did a mostly-positive job with the film’s direction, giving us superb visuals and a full-frontal experience of the best horror the film had to offer. The look and mannerisms of the killer were fantastic, and I found him somewhat reminiscent of the killer in Christopher Smith’s Creep, which is definitely a compliment. Federico’s execution of the overall horror was great, and showed that the guy can definitely make a career in the horror genre if he keeps up the good horror. Sadly, I do feel that the kill sequences could have been much better, simply because aside from the torture scenes we did not get a full-frontal approach to the kills but were instead exposed to off-camera kills, which I have never been a big fan of except for rare circumstances when executed properly…and these were not executed properly. Now, this could be related to budget, or they could be how they were written into the story, but given our director is also one of the writers, I cannot forgive him for that. Our two protagonists put on positive performances, executing their characters properly and giving us the horror that we deserved, although most of that came from Jake Muxworthy’s character, David. Had the kills been perfected and the story been tweaked up this Italian effort could have been a fantastic watch that could have potentially gotten the ball rolling in the Italian horror scene again, but I am sad to report that despite this flick’s positives and decent rating, it is simply not good enough to do that.
Overall, Shadow provides much potential to be a truly great horror film but in the end falls from grace mostly due to the storyline’s unsatisfactory third act, as well as the lack of good direction on all horror not having to do with the torture scenes. We get a sweet and savage killer sure to please fans of the slasher sub-genre, but Shadow’s end-result is one that I cannot fully recommend unless you wish to take your own shot at enjoying a modern day Italian horror film, but be forewarned: they don’t make ’em like they used to.