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Shadow People - Review

Updated on May 29, 2013

Werewolves, vampires, zombies, ghosts. Horror movie monsters tend to come around in cycles. Right now we seem to be in the midst of a zombie horde, as well as the continuing popularity of ghost movies, courtesy of Oren Peli's Paranormal Activity series. It's the likes of Paranormal Activity and Insidious, that Shadow People is heavily indebted to. Opening with a string of YouTube videos, made by actual well-known YouTubers, Shadow People desperately wants to comment on modern technology and communication but fails to do so thanks to a lacklustre plot, and a bizarre way of telling its story.

The film cuts between a "traditional" film spliced together with bits of found-footage, mainly consisting of various interviews of people who have purportedly sighted the titular Shadow People. This is one of the films biggest mistakes. The found-footage style only really works when it is used throughout, such as in The Last Broadcast, or the fantastic Marble Hornets series on YouTube, since its main quality, when it's done correctly, is the ability to immerse the viewer in what is happening. The constant shifting between the two styles is jarring and suggests that it was done more to fill up the film's runtime than for any stylistic reason.

Which is just as well, since the actual story is so shallow that is it's almost non-existent. Which is a shame considering the lead for the film is Dallas Roberts, who played Milton in the third season of The Walking Dead. He's a solid actor, but here he barely has anything to work with. A clichéd subplot where he attempts to reconnect with his son trails off into nothing, not even providing much in the way of characterization. Meanwhile, the rest of film is full of dull conversations, as various characters spout exposition. Even worse is the found-footage interviews since they even dispense with the need to have dialogue and just literally tell the viewer what they should be thinking, like little more than a video game tutorial.

As a horror film it falls short simply because it lacks any sense of atmosphere. Once again, a missed opportunity. The Shadow People, in the right hands, would be an interesting threat; shadowy figures that only appear in the corner of your eye and travel through electronic devices, make for a somewhat original, and potentially creepy, concept. Here, they do pretty much nothing, save make the odd person jump. They hardly ever show up either, making about three appearance throughout the film.

Despite the recent onslaught of found-footage movies in recent years, Shadow People would have been one film to benefit from using the format. The film's ending, which attempts to be ominous with its final scene falls flat because it's not pretending to be found-footage. As a low-budget horror movie, the idea could have been somewhat decent, but Shadow People lacks any sense of urgency, and suffers from dull pacing.

As the film ends, the credits dedicate the film to all the victims of SUNDS: Sudden Unexplained Nocturnal Death Syndrome. It's unclear whether writer-director Matthew Arnold actually believes that people who have died from the syndrome are actually victims of the Shadow People, but it comes off as hilariously bad-taste, especially when you've just made a hokey horror film about the whole subject. A documentary on SUNDS, or a found-footage horror flick involving shadows, either would have been preferable over what we've ended up with.

Shadow People was released on DVD, in the UK, on May 6th.

© 2013 LudoLogic

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