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  • Rev Horror

Shadow Island

Dir. Johan Storm (2023)

A meteorologist travels to a remote island to investigate his father's death, but after discovering another young woman on the island, he begins to believe that they're not alone.

Shadow Island, the debut feature from director Johan Storm, starts off with a bit of a whimper but ends with a bang. Dealing primarily with the backdrop of Sweden's potential entry into NATO, a suddenly-tense part of the world becomes a little tenser as Storm delivers a fairly taut but at times unfulfilling thriller that does its best to make the audience feel the desolation of a tiny island off the coast of the Scandinavian country. Reminds me of a joke, actually: Why did Sweden add barcodes to all of their military vessels? So they could Scandinavian. Get it?

Young meteorologist David (Johan L. Heinstedt) is trying to follow in his father's footsteps, studying weather patterns on a remote island off the coast of Norway. He recently discovered information left behind after his father's suicide and he's hoping that what he finds on the island can help explain what drove his father to his fate. Shortly after arrival, David hears Sarah (Hanne Mathisen Haga) over the shortwave radio, discovering that the young psychology student is a lighthouse keeper on the other side of the island. Strange things are afoot, however, and David slowly begins to learn that the pair are not the only inhabitants on the island, and dark things may indeed be afoot.

There is a decent sense of mystery running throughout the film. As with most good mystery/thrillers, the audience learns about the events that are transpiring along with the characters: there are no hints to reveal things before they happen, no secret that the audience is able to uncover before they happen on-screen. It's a good way to do it, but it does lead to the film being a little slower than I would've liked. It's not a slow burn so much because it never really lights those fires, but it does have a twisty finale that gives heft to the whole rest of the film, lending to a rewatch after you discover why things happen the way that they do.

Shadow Island is a film that is heavy on mood and ambience, though at times lacking a bit of substance. Storm crafted a film that is cinematographically gorgeous, well acted, and atmospheric, but ultimately moves along a bit too slow to be a resounding success. Heinstedt and Haga deliver fantastic performances, both haunted by a past that will eventually be discovered throughout the film. The payoff is actually pretty intriguing especially if you're interested in the sociopolitical climate in that part of the world. With everything that's happening in the former Soviet Bloc countries, Shadow Island is perhaps even more relevant now than it will be in the future.

Who this movie is for: Mystery/thriller fans, Ambience aficionados, Swedish chefs

Bottom line: While it wasn't entirely my cup of tea, mystery fans should rejoice at this film. It's atmospheric, builds its tension nicely throughout, and has a payoff that is well worth the previous runtime. While there's very little horror to be found here, Shadow Island is a thriller with a captivating twist and an incredibly relevant plot. Check this one out if you're a fan of the genre, and it's coming to select theaters and On Deman September 8th from the excellent Brainstorm Media.


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