Dir. Carlo Lavagna (2022)
Two sisters live deep in the woods with their mother, who shelters and protects them from the day-walking creatures known as the Shadows.
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
It’s not difficult to tell why horror creators tend to lean towards creating their worlds in a post-apocalyptic setting. There’s something uniquely unsettling about feeling alone, not just in your immediate vicinity but in the entire world, knowing that the only thing that stands between you and your untimely death is your own skills and knowhow. If you can’t find food you must grow it, and if you are attacked by anything that is left in the world, your safety and survivability is determined solely by your own abilities to defend yourself. If you’re someone like me, this is a terrifying concept, because I am not good at anything. Unless writing snarky horror commentary is a valuable skill in the new wasteland, I’m kinda fucked. In a world where there are mysterious and dangerous creatures that lurk in the daylight, I can’t imagine much scarier than knowing I’m only safe in the dark with nothing but my lack of wits and physical prowess to see me through to the next time the sun goes down.
This is the world created by Carlo Lavagna’s new psychological horror film Shadows. Sisters Alma (Mia Threapleton) and Alex (Lola Petticrew) live in an abandoned hotel off in the woods with their mother (Saskia Reeves), adapting to their new environment by learning as much as they can about their environment and hunting for food and supplies during the night. As with many siblings, the two girls are wildly different, with Alma being the more book-smart sister and Alex being the street-smart of the pair. When the relationship between the girls and their mother begins to break down, the girls start out on their own to explore the world beyond the river that has served as a natural boundary that they have never crossed before.
Lavagna gets the absolute most out of a barebones cast and beautiful scenery, with Reeves, Petticrew, and Stapleton traipsing through lush greenery and elegantly decorated hotel with meticulous precision. The sound design is fantastic, utilizing the nature sounds of their desolate surroundings to ratchet up the feeling of isolation and the disconcerting score to make you wonder whether the characters are as alone as they seem. The plot is an incredibly slow burn, carried by the charisma of the two lead actors Threapleton and Petticrew, but unfortunately they at times fall short of making the film actually interesting. While the mystery and intrigue are layered on thick, the payoff of the movie is a little lackluster for all of the buildup.
Who this movie is for: Slow burn horror lovers, Dramatic horror fans, Day-dwellers
Bottom line: Perhaps a bit too slow of a burn for its own good, Shadows is still a good film filled with some excellent performances. The cinematography is fantastic, the score works perfectly, and the scenery fits the post-apocalyptic atmosphere to a tee. Unfortunately, the scares are practically nonexistent and the eventual payoff is one that may leave you disappointed. Shadows is debuting on VOD November 15th, and if you’re a fan of psychological mystery, it very well may be worth a look.