Shallow Ground
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir-scr Sheldon Wilson
with Timothy V Murphy, Stan Kirsch, Lindsey Stoddart, Rocky Marquette, Patricia McCormack, Natalie Avital, John Kapelos, Steve Eastin, Tara Killian, Chris Hendrie, Myron Natwick, Ori Pfeffer
release UK 29.Jul.05
04/US 1h37

The deputy looks worried: Kirsch


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Shallow Ground Finally, a grisly horror film with an original thought in its head! Sure, this is filmed like a standard B-movie thriller, but the plot keeps us guessing right up to the end, and it's creepy and unsettling enough to give us nightmares.

An isolated town is shutting down--something to do with a new dam. The world-weary sheriff Jack (Murphy) still isn't over the violent disappearance of his girlfriend (Killian), and can't commit to the deputy (Stoddart) he's developing a relationship with. Another deputy (Kirsch) is looking forward to getting back to city life. Then a naked, blood-soaked teenager (Marquette) wanders into their office. And things start getting very, very strange, dredging up all those unsolved missing-person cases and disrupting the town's evacuation.

As the film progresses, the mystery deepens. It's not that clever or complicated, but it's something we simply cannot predict or unravel on our own, so it leaves us feeling off-balance from the beginning. Just when we begin to think we know what's going on, writer-director Wilson throws us off the scent. Much of this is blatantly obvious movie manipulation (cue another loud musical chord); he draws heavily from horror classics like Evil Dead to create a woodsy atmosphere in which it seems like anything can happen next. Then he keeps us entertained with wacky revelations and outrageous gore, some of which is truly nasty.

The acting is low-key and just a little bit dodgy, in that fine B-movie tradition. But this refreshing lack of slickness actually makes the film more effective. The characters are all intriguing bundles of quirks and secrets--Murphy is especially distinctive, with his strangely accented delivery and haunted, emotional vulnerability. Combine all this with freaky flashbacks and visions and a tone that's never jokey but manages to be, almost subliminally, a pitch-black comedy. So when the final cathartic bloodbath begins, and we discover the inspired truth behind what's happening, the film becomes far more engaging than most of what Hollywood serves up in this genre. Especially since it all has very personal implications.

cert 18 themes, violence and gore, nudity, language 5.May.05

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... Shallow Ground Bones, NY: 1/5 "I didn't get it. Didn't make a lick of sense to me. Dismissed." (7.Oct.05)

Maribel, US: 4.5/5 "This movie was creepy, the end got me surprised. there probably will be follow-up. Maybe the next bloody person will be a girl, it'd be nice. Or maybe it'll be a sequel in name only. Never know. Some sequels pick up after the original and some don't." (30.Dec.05)

Bill, California: 2.5/5 "This film had such promise! Plenty of good gore, and a great premise. However, the actors play it so aloof it becomes annoying. I mean, some crazy things are happening here and the characters aren't freaking out at all. Then you find out who is doing what and why, but not really. Huh? Oh well, I did enjoy it. Even if I didn't really understand it." (15.May.06)

2005 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall