After David finishes his tour of duty in Iraq, he heads to a remote Italian mountain range for a biking excursion but his rest and relaxation is cut short when he and a young woman named Angeline find themselves hunted by two deer hunters. Forced to retreat deeper into the wilds of the mountain, all four unsuspecting people are about to find themselves in a forbidden part of the forest, hunted by an unstoppable force of evil, a being so twisted he can only be called Mortis!
Now David must work alongside the two men that hunted him in order to escape the horrifying torture chamber of the sick butcher Mortis and rescue Angeline.
This incredibly tense, visually impressive return to Italian horror filmmaking by Federico Zampaglione is just what the doctor ordered for those looking for style, substance and a little Goblinesque groove. Shadow is being hailed as “Jacob’s Ladder meets The Descent” and that’s relatively accurate as this film plays out like a modern re-imagining of Jacob’s Ladder with a healthy dose of backwoods survival and nu-sploitation torture.
Effectively combining breathtaking Roman violence with art house subtext (American Imperialism & The Iraq War), Zampaglione is able to achieve something reminiscent of Dario Argento and Lamberto Bava’s work, which is no small feat. Recognition for that should definitely go to the considerable talents of production designer Davide Brassan. If the name doesn’t sound familiar, the films might as he’s worked on Italian horror/thriller classics such as Suspiria, Demons 1 & 2, Opera, Body Puzzle and Giallo.
The acting was wonderful, no gripes on that front. Jake Muxworthy is a relatively new actor with a great look and natural acting ability, Karina Testa (Frontiers) is a beautiful, versatile actress but the real body slam was in casting Nuot Arquint as the infinitely creepy Mortis. In my opinion, on par with Max Schreck’s Orlok, Arquint’s toad-licking antagonist was truly chilling, making the atrocities faced by the protagonists in this film all the more shocking. Trust me, that’s saying something considering the gruesome torture sequences in this film.
What impressed me most about Shadow, aside from Nuot’s performance, was the wonderful writing that went in to making the subtext work so well with the text, the subconscious so well with the conscious. Sequences line up effortlessly and many won’t even come into focus until the entire film is done and you’ve had a few days to marinate on what you’ve seen. Hell, it wasn’t until days later when I started writing this review that a few small details really hit home with me. The Zampaglione’s and Giacomo Gensini did a wonderful job.
I was able to catch this on IFC Midnight On Demand so check your local cable listings to find out whether it’s still playing. If not, I’d recommend a rental. If you’re an avid Italian horror fan, this could be a purchase.