The Shadow of Death (2012)
Have you noticed that for a while now the horror genre has been flooded with old-school style flicks that either pay homage to a better, by-gone era or is made “in the style” of such an era? For example, we’ve gotten some really well done “return to grindhouse/exploitation” films recently like HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN (my review) and FATHER’S DAY (my review); some really great old-school-style slashers like HATCHET and LAID TO REST; and even the short film LEWIS (my review) paid homage to those classic satanic cult films of the 1970s like THE BROTHERHOOD OF SATAN (1971), RACE WITH THE DEVIL (1975), and TO THE DEVIL A DAUGHTER (1976). When done right these throw-back films are really fun and can take you down memory lane. When they’re thrown together haphazardly just to make a quick buck … well it shows!! Enter Gav Chuckie Steel’s THE SHADOW OF DEATH. This one has a fun time reliving the old-school slasher film, but does Steel have the chops to pull it off as a whole, or does the gimmick wear off after a while?
THE SHADOW OF DEATH has a really basic set-up: Three long time girlfriends and roommates waste a day by going out to meet their dealer in order to score some more weed. The roomies are Nancy (Sophia Disgrace), the stoner; Debra (Corinna Jane), the nice girl; and Jamie (Jane West), the nerdy girl. Steel has a fun time playing around with the typical archetypal characters found in slasher flicks and barely has any male leads. Jamie and Debra accompany Nancy, who once again ran outta weed, to meet up with Dan (Daniel Carter-Hope). Dan is Nancy’s ex and her hook up when she needs more smoke. The dude (and trust me; he’s a dude) Dan buys from, Marley (Charlie Bore), is out in the woods getting back to nature. So the gang pile into Debra’s car and head out to the woods. What they don’t know is that there’s a psycho out in the woods dressed up like Death who’s taken it upon himself to “cleanse” the woods of all the sinners. I know it’s not much of a motive, but does the killer in a slasher film ever really have a solid motive?
Throw in a sub-plot about borderline whack job Craven (Dan Bone), who thinks he’s a “super cop” but who’s really just the town crazy, and you have some truly bizarre moments in THE SHADOW OF DEATH. The film starts out with a bang as we see the killer dressed as Death taking out every and anyone in the woods who crosses his path. The death scenes are pretty fun and Steel comes up with some interesting kills. I won’t ruin anything by being too specific, but have ya ever seen a ‘death by bong’ before? I bet not!! There’s also a really great death scene that Lucio Fulci himself would approve of. Considering the budget for this one is listed at an estimated £250, the special f/x are well done. They are all practical, and f/x man Mark Kelly keeps it simple, yet effective and gooey.
What I also liked was the way the film was shot. THE SHADOW OF DEATH has an almost washed-out look in some spots and an over-exposed look in others. This was nicely done and didn’t feel gimmicky at all but felt like a natural part of the film itself. THE SHADOW OF DEATH will most remind you of the original LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT as far as the look and tone of the film. The editing is a little jumpy in spots (on purpose) and the film almost feels like you’re watching an old home movie. The one negative thing I have to say here is that the pacing is inconsistent. The first and last acts of the film are nicely paced with fun kills and quick dialogue. The middle of the film, though, drags a bit. The killings kinda stop in the middle acts and there’s a little too much exposition. Maybe another run through the editing room (also done by Steel) would have tightened it all up a bit.
THE SHADOW OF DEATH is a really solid debut feature from Gav Chuckie Steel and if he can successfully make a film on a £250 budget then I’d love to see what he could do with a few thousand pounds!! With the acting and special f/x way above the average for a micro-budgeted indie film, THE SHADOW OF DEATH is a really nice find in the indie horror scene. Check out THE SHADOW OF DEATH website to stay updated on information on distribution. I’ll make sure to pass along any info as I hear it.
Director: Gav Chuckie Steel (& writer, producer, music composer, cinematographer, & editor)
Plot: 3 out of 5 stars
Gore: 6 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Scott Shoyer