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Shadow People – 6

Director – Matthew Arnold

Cast – Dallas Roberts, Alison Eastwood, Anne Dudek, Mariah Bonner, Mattie Liptak, Christopher Berry, Jonathan Baron, Marco St. John

Release Year – 2013

Reviewed by John of the Dead

While scouring iTunes for a movie to watch I came across a few I had never heard of, and the one that interested me most was Shadow People. After watching the film’s trailer I knew that this was a film I just had to see, and in the end the flick delivers a mostly positive experience. Anyone who listens to Coast-to-Coast AM has surely heard listeners call in and speak about the existence of “shadow people”, and while aliens and ghosts peak more of my interest I was excited to see a horror film take on this popular underground paranormal topic. Attempting to blur the lines between fact and fiction, Shadow People gives us an interesting documentary-esque (not found footage) experience that also provides some damn good scares.

Struggling radio talk show host Charlie Crowe (Dallas Roberts; The Factory, The Grey, Joshua, “The Walking Dead”) takes the call of a lifetime when a troubled listener claims to be haunted by The Shadow People and attempts to kill himself on the air. The publicity brings new life to Crowe’s show, and in the ensuing madness he exposes a conspiracy about The Shadow People and their involvement in the unexplained deaths of hundreds of victims in the 1980s.

The experience starts of with viral media reacting to the thought of Shadow People among us, giving us a glimpse of what it would be like should the events of this film happen in real life in our present day. Auteur Matthew Arnold kicks things off well, establishing Charlie Crowe and giving us insight into the life he leads, and 18 minutes into the film Crowe’s professional life changes forever when he takes the spooky phone call. Naturally the call causes conflict thanks to the resulting media storm, which is far from positive when nosy reporters being questioning whether or not the call was a hoax to improve struggling ratings. Charlie is not a believer of things paranormal, but he soon because to doubt his doubts when the paranormal start showing they believe in him. 30 minutes into the film the first solid scare appears, and while the shadow people came to us via computer generated effects they were definitely scary enough to give me goosebumps on my legs. In the end there are several scare sequences that left me with supreme chills and griping that I was not given more scares to enjoy. The horror is often followed by cuts to experts speaking on the idea of Shadow People, and this gives the film a documentary-esque feel much like The Fourth Kind. Some may not like this tactic but I did not mind it. It is possible the story could not stand on its own and these cuts are what made the film. So why the documentary aspect? Well, while the film plays heavily on Shadow People it also focuses on the real life phenomenon of Sudden Unexpected Nocturnal Death Syndrome (SUNDS) and whether these deaths are really “unexpected” or deaths attributed to the Shadow People. There are constant developments to the story and eventually the horror manifests in an explosive way, showing that the Shadow People phenomenon is neither a new nor isolated problem. The film grows and develops but the use of the film’s scary antagonists does not grow like the rest of the film does. While the quality of the scares were good they never progressed and remained the same old story over and over. While I appreciate them, especially in a day where few films really scare me, I cannot overlook how stagnant our antagonists were.

Matthew Arnold’s direction was pretty good and a big reason behind why I enjoyed this flick. Arnold’s atmosphere has a lot to do with said enjoyment and played a very big role in the success of the horror/scares. It is solid gloomy, which is perfect for the film’s subject matter, and lowly lit which provides plenty of shadows for the Shadow People to hide in until it is time to terrorize us and the protagonists. I was very impressed with Arnold’s execution of the horror, and as mentioned earlier it was so good I consistently experienced goosebumps – a rare occurrence after seeing thousands of horror films. The look of the Shadow People was somewhat creepy, coming via CGI but a positive CGI. Given they are shadows it would be hard for them to come to us through live action effects, and I found them to be similar to the surprisingly creepy aliens in Dark Skies. However, what made the Shadow People really scary was how they were used. Arnold expertly used shadows to scare us by having the Shadow People hide and move within them before attacking. Seeing “something” in a dark corner but not being able to tell exactly what it is will always scare me, and we get quite a few of those scares here. To make things even more scary, the ambient noise lets you know that something bad is going to happen and forces you to be on your toes. This was very similar to the low hum heard during scare sequences in Paranormal Activity. Arnold also gets the most out of our lead, Dallas Roberts, who I was glad to see after his excellent portrayal the killer in The Factory and has proven to be a solid force in the horror genre in latter years.  Arnold’s execution was fair overall, but he really excelled on the horror and I look forward to seeing what he does with this talent.

Overall, Shadow People is a mostly positive watch that gives us some darn good scares. If you are looking for something different in the genre then the film’s focus on Shadow People should suffice, and those who enjoy documentary style films should enjoy that element as well. The flick does have its flaws and will not win any awards, but if you do give this a shot I HIGHLY suggest you watch it in the evening and with the lights off.

Rating: 6/10

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