PrintE-mail Written by Jack Bottomley

From the sounds of French horror/thriller Dead Shadows you might think something special lies within. From the colourful galaxy-set opening credits to the agreeable concept, it seems like there could be a good dose of fun here. However, as we well know, the greatest of ideas need substance to thrive, and it is here where first time director David Cholewa’s vision melts like a baked Alaska in the summer sun. The film sees troubled young man Chris (Fabian Wolfrom) and his neighbours preparing for the phenomena of a comet passing overhead in Paris. However, 11 years ago this happened and Chris lost his parents, and this time it appears as though there could be even greater consequences behind what is being called a comet but could be much more devastating. As a film, it unquestionably has some ideas but lets itself down at every turn with a lack of logic in the story, characters and concept.

Dead Shadows is a spin on John Carpenter’s The Thing (Carpenter is actually referenced by a poster on the wall too) and Invasion of the Body Snatchers with added elements of the video game Prototype. Now, it would be cruel to chastise a film like this for certain budgetary setbacks but that isn’t the biggest problem. In fact, some practical work is fine but the film’s over reliance on CGI and going bigger in scale is what trips it up, in the process this shows up some obvious effects at one minute (Asylum level at times) and constantly the film feels like a lesser brother to Skyline - and Skyline was not exactly a masterclass, although its effects were excellent. However, the biggest problem here is really the story, which cannot decide which route it wants to take, leaving the film a jumble of assorted genre conventions, with little time (opening and end credits excluded, it runs little over 60 minutes) to evaluate on its characters. 

Nothing really hangs together neatly and occasionally the film feels unfinished and like a series of random scenes with no connective narrative running through. For instance, the backstory by the end gets dropped and a central twist is abandoned and not to mention given away almost instantly anyway. The vagueness of the apocalyptic plot is at times effective, as are some gruesome scenes but the film needed honing and developing more before being released. Case in point, the poster shows phases of infection but this is never even mentioned in the plot; in fact, a lot of things are introduced and dropped almost immediately. It makes you wonder just whether people were so excited with their ideas that they never worked off the script and instead just made everything up as they went along.

The acting shows the expected shortfalls, although Wolfrom is fine in the lead, but you are never quite sure where you are with any of the characters and that is before the paranoia is meant to set in with the invasion angle of the plot. It is a shame really, because as the closing credits concept art (think a street-set Dead Space) shows, this could have made an excellent comic, graphic novel or adult animation. In fact there is an idea here for a fantastic B-movie throwback or a paranoid '70s/'80s style alien horror. Unfortunately, Dead Shadows never expands on this glimmer of promise and ends up instead as an incomprehensible mish-mash of ideas that are not particularly well connected or developed. Cholewa could very well be a filmmaker with ideas (lest we forget James Cameron started out with Piranha 2: The Spawning) but needs to get the fundamentals in check next time round if he is to do justice to any film he makes because Dead Shadows is overshadowed by its messy script, story and uncontrolled direction.

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