Sunday, March 10, 2013

DVD Review: SHADOW PEOPLE (2012)


Release Date: March 19th 2013
Region Code: 1 NTSC
Duration: 89 Minutes
Rating: PG-13
Video: 16:9 Widescreen (2.40:1)
Audio: English Dolby Digital with Optional Spanish Subtitles
Director: Matthew Arnold
Cast: Dallas Roberts, Alison Eastwood, Anne Dudek, Mariah Bonner 
Tagline: Now You Will See Them Too
In the Shadow People (2012) Dallas Howard, whom might ring familiar to many as the character "Milton" from The Walking Dead series, stars as late night radio personality Charlie Crow, host of the Night Shift radio program preaching the word of the paranormal and supernatural to late night listeners. On a particular night a young man named Jeff calls in with a tale of "shadow people". Jeff cuts him off thinking he's a loony but a few days later Charlie receives a package labeled "Read and believe" on his doorstep, inside are documents about experiments performed at the local Camden College by a Dr. Ravenscroft and his research of sleep hallucinations or some such shit. The next night Jeff calls again, this time he seems even more unhinged as he speaks about the shadow people, on-air a gunshot is heard through the telephone, at first we think we've heard an unfortunate live suicide but in fact Jeff shot at something in his room, presumably a shadow person.  Afterward he is committed to the hospital for psychiatric evaluation by his worried parents. Charlie's curiosity is peaked by the event and when he goes to the hospital to speak with Jeff about the incident he discovers that the young man has died mysteriously in his sleep.

Charlie is consumed by the strange death and the notion of the shadow people, a side effects of his obsession is that his long-struggling radio program has gained legions of new listeners as he devotes each show to the topic. Charlie is not the only one who's curious about the recent rash of unexplained deaths either, Sophie Lacombe, an investigator from the Center for Disease Control (Allison Eastwood) arrives on scene to investigate the deaths, which the CDC is labeling Sudden Unexplained Nocturnal Death Syndrome and before you know it her and Charlie are sleuthing Dr. Ravenscroft's research, unearthing graves and even possible evidence of the existence of shadow people. As Charlie become more and more entrenched in the lore of the Shadow People he starts to notice strange things in the shadows of his own home and he starts losing sleep as he attempts to get to the truth behind the phenomena. 

I love the premise of the film, weird supernatural shadowy figures that paralyze and strangle their victims, a down on his luck radio-host drawn into the mystery, it's good stuff. Unfortunately the execution here is about as interesting as watching grass grow, the film starts of enticingly with a flashback to Cambodia in 1979 as a young boy hears the legend of the Shadow People and falls victim to their terror, the rest of the story is told as a sort of recreation of actual events peppered with "real" never-seen-before interviews with the actual people who lived the events, yeah fuckin' right! There's another film that does this recreation/documentary style similarly and it achieves the same level of success, the alien abduction travesty The Fourth Kind (2009) a film I really disliked, it's just terrible and this does quite a bit worse than even that film The Fourth Kind at least had a few tense and  somewhat cheap jumpy moments, this was just pure narcoleptic lameness, right when I thought something interesting might transpire it just put me back to sleep. The inter-cut interviews are the wort, took me right outta the film every time and rammed into this watch-paint-dry production are awful "character moments as Charlie dealing with a bitter ex-wife and an ungrateful (if pretty typical) teen son who at the very end of the film gives it a very quick flavor of The Ring (2002) but just a taste, not enough to do any good, there's precious little tension and very few frights to be found here.

Verdict: Pretty sure this film is based on the same events that inspired Wes Craven's A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), a series of strange sleep-related deaths that took place in the Hmong community, there's definitely potential for an interesting story here it's just too bad it's such a bore. Watching this I was reminded of an episode of the 80's run of the Twilight Zone directed by Joe Dante (The Howling)  called "The Shadow Man", an episode about a menacing shadow figure that lived under the bed of a boy, it terrified me when I was twelve and had me checking under the bed for weeks, Shadow People just made me want to go to sleep. I've watched the Shadow People (2012) for you, now you won't have to. 
2 Outta 5