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April 22, 2011

Movie Review: Shadow (2009, MPI/IFC Films)

By Greg Goodsell

Directed by Federico Zampaglione

Brevity, they say, is the soul of wit. The chief virtue of the latest Italian Gothic Shadow is its brevity, running a tight 77 minutes. Director Federico Zampaglione recognizes that his film is composed of overly familiar elements, and as such, rushes his characters and storyline off the stage as soon as possible.

Buy Shadow on DVD

We first meet our hero David (Jake Muxworthy), a U.S. serviceman in a voiceover as he composes a letter to his mother. Wearying of combat duty in Iraq , he tells her that he is anxious to go on a mountain biking trip in a remote stretch of Europe . The action then switches to the countryside, where he meets a lovely young woman (Karina Testa) as well as two bullying louts (Chris Coppola, Ottviano Blitch) that after an altercation in a tavern, begin to aggressively stalk him on the lonely mountain roads. The film then takes a turn for the surreal when the three of them are captured by a hideous, epicene figure listed in the credits as “Mortis” (Nuot Arquint) who takes them to a woebegone, isolated compound for a series of grueling tortures. There are attempts at escape, David breaks free – only to stun the audience with a surprise, shock conclusion.

We’ve seen it all before, but in shadow it’s done very well. Working with a minimal cast, director Zampaglione ratchets up the thrills and is successful in conjuring up a brooding atmosphere of malingering horror. The only “deal breaker,” for some audience members will be the shock conclusion, which some may take exception to. The film has a message, a very important one on how we, the audience for horror films willingly watch atrocious acts carried out upon the screen and then blithely accept the real-life horrors that surround us daily as a given. Shadow's success will rely on the viewer who is willing to take some cogent social commentary with the expected thrills and chills.

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