|A FilmExposed Film Review
Dir: Sheldon Wilson, USA, 2004, 97 minutes
Cast: Timothy V Murphy, Stan Kirsch, Lindsey Stoddart, Patty McCormack
This low, low budget US horror is distinctly short on thrills, not least because there are rather too many zombies on screen. Not in the story, mind you. In the cast.
Outside a Sheriff's cabin in the woods, somewhere in modern day America, a mute boy covered in blood emerges from the undergrowth. The community is still reeling from a series of unexplained disappearances, but the police cannot tell if this boy has been the victim or the perpetrator of a crime. Once strange and supernatural events start to occur, Sheriff Shepard (Murphy) is convinced there is a link between him and the missing people... But will there be more deaths before he can uncover the awful truth?
It is the combination of clichéd dialogue and moribund acting that have produced the genuine monster here. While the story is initially promising, the script is uniformly terrible, and the cast cope by delivering it in the most emotionally uncharged manner possible. Early on we hear 'I can't believe she's dead! Such a freak accident! They never should have built that dam!' Would the writers of Scooby Doo please come and take their script back?
Shallow Ground is done no favours by its release date, coming so soon after the excellent
The Descent. While both deal with unexpected horrors in US parkland wilderness, the latter film features a believable cast who look genuinely scared. In Shallow Ground when something scary happens, most of the characters just look a bit dizzy, or start squinting as if they've lost a contact lens. And there is no logic to the way they behave. One of the cops goes crazy and shoots a friend at point blank range. What do the other cops do? Look perturbed for a few seconds, and then does some spring cleaning. It's difficult to feel much empathy for such zombies.
It's not all utter dross. The music is excellent, and sounds like it belongs to a horror movie twenty times better. There is a twist at the halfway mark during a phone call between Deputy Russell (Stoddart) and her father which for a moment threatens to make the story interesting. And one must admire the gumption and application of the producers in getting the film made at all on such a meagre budget. But these alone are not enough.
Quite early on in the action the spooky boy writes 'No-one leaves' in blood on a window. If you see Shallow Ground in a cinema you'll find his prediction spookily inaccurate. In fact you might not be able to hear the dialogue for the sound of seats slapping back into the upright position. As Deputy Dempsey (Kirsch) comments at one point, 'This is going to get a lot worse before it gets better, isn't it?' And he's right, although it doesn't really get better until 98 minutes in.
... Oh, and of course there is an obligatory TRICK SURPRISE ENDING!
WhiCH! MakEs! No! SNESE!!