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Ben Austwick [Film Festival 08.29.09] Italy movie review horror

Year: 2009
Directors: Federico Zampaglione
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: Ben Austwick
Rating: 6.5 out of 10

Presented with an Italian rock star's directorial debut you're bound to expect something a bit Rob Zombie-like, gaudy, fast moving and image-conscious, but Federico Zampanglione has taken a more considered approach in a well-paced, assured film that unfortunately lacks the zip and colour of Zombie's divisive movies.

A young soldier, David, played by Jake Muxworthy, returns from a tour of duty in Iraq and realising he needs a bit of head space takes a mountain biking holiday in a beautiful, forested region of the Alps. He meets a girl with a similar idea and they join together to cycle through some stunning scenery, that with its misty valleys and mossy undergrowth manages to be a cut above the usual horror woodland setting. There are other holidaymakers in this lonely region, two comically overacted bad-guy hunters, dirty and snarling in gruff accents I think are meant to be English, who cross swords with the cyclists and engage in lively pursuit. However the real enemy lurks higher up in the mountains, a strange, ethereal monster of a man who has escaped a terrible past, an adversary so fearsome they must join forces to escape him.

It's a real surprise to see a first time director work with such expertise, so much so that Shadow's run-of-the-mill first half, a simple sequence of chases and confrontations, manages to be both tense and engaging. The best scene comes later as the film descends into the torture porn more becoming of a rock star director, with Emilio de Marchi putting in a great silent performance as the sleekly cadaverous tormentor with the beatific smile. Hints at his past scattered throughout the underground laboratory he inhabits are a fascinating but unexplored backstory, and a jolting belly laugh that comes when you're least expecting it is a real treat in such a deadpan movie.

Rather than ratchet up the terror Shadow unfortunately fizzles out into more chases after this highpoint, and an unconvincing twist at the end drags down what could otherwise be a slick if slightly underwhelming film. Zamanglione obviously has skill though, and with some better ideas and a better script may well be able to work wonders.

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bob (12 years ago) Reply

if you are going to write a review, don't get the actors confused! Emilio de Marchi was the doctor not the cadaverous tormentor. And Buck had an american accent, Fred had an English accent. And yes it was hard to understand. I saw the film in London and loved it!


Rick Archer (12 years ago) Reply

Hmmmmmm Shadow - well it wasnt bad but had a real cop-out ending.

I was wary of the "future of Italian Horror" - incidentally I dont agree - tag floating around this movie but the plot interested me and I wanted to see how he handled it.

It did seem a bit cliched in the "boy meets girl, boy defends girl when girl is being hit upon by boneheads (with unintelligible accents - I only guessed one was meant to be a brit when I saw the union jack flag on the truck window) with big guns, boy gets it on with girl in tent, boy and girl piss off boneheads with big guns whilst boneheads are trying to shoot bambi's mother/brother/father etc , boneheads chase boy and girl etc". My idea of a relaxing time certainly isnt mountain biking in some isolated-foggy-back-end-of-eastern-europe so I was a little uninterested in the plot initially. It started to get interesting when the boneheads with big guns big drooling dog was found burnt to a crisp.

It had some nice creepily effective moments courtesy of the cadaverous Nuot Arquint (I think thats how you spell it ..) who reminded me of what you'd get if you took Richard O'Brien from the TV Quiz Crystal Maze, tortured and starved him. The roasting of brit bonehead was effective (even though when they escaped he did seem to be moving around remarkably well for a man who left his cooked skin welded to a stainless steel table) and the eyelid slicing of David was a real ohhhh moment.

At this point I was intrigued as to who this caderverous frog-licking torturer was and why was he doing this etc - however Zampaglione gave us what I felt was a real cop-out Jacobs Ladderesque ending.

Many comments I've read about this screening talked about "horror movie with a real message?" Eh? What message? War, What is War? What is it good for? Abolsutely nothing .... except it can give you nice fantasies about rescuing some doe-eyed lovely (who shares you great passion of mountain biking in the middle of nowhere) from a pair of gun-toting bone heads and some cadaverous frog-licking lunatic? :)

Not a bad effort from Zampaglione for his first movie - apart from the let-down of an ending and the really very loud soundtrack - and nicely constructed/atmospheric I'll be interested to see what he comes up with next.

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