DIRECTOR: J.S. Wilson
Woodrow Wilson Hancock III
Grace Van Dien
When Adam receives an emergency call from his estranged brother Jake. He is told to return home as soon as possible as their widowed mother has suddenly disappeared. Without delay, Adam brings along his wife and their new baby for support. Once they arrive, he meets his mother's new bereavement support group who aren't at all what they appear. As he starts to unravel the mystery, he will soon learn that the cult-like group have other plans in store for his family.
Looking at the poster for Awaken The Shadowman, I was under the impression that I would be watching another found-footage movie about a woman who has given birth to the antichrist. I couldn't have been more wrong with this film. The film opens with a woman running through a dimly-lit basement while holding a baby. She is suddenly come upon by a group of hooded men. The movie cuts to black. It was clear that we were going to be taking a different route this time. A welcome relief for me.
Awaken The Shadowman has several elements going for it, but I sadly think the first time writers and director haven't crafted a coherent story. When put to film, it really doesn't make all that much sense by the time the movie has abruptly ended. There are little moments of exposition sprinkled into the story, but the film moves incredibly quick, from one scene to the next. There is never any easing into each new scene. I think with a longer running time and some more in fleshing out the story, this may have been something special.
What works in the movie is the mood. This is a very sombre story. The film from the very first scene is steeped in dread. I think these guys at least get that element right. We get glimpses of the Shadowman throughout, and I think the director has taken his queues from James Wan and Insidious. While the Insidious franchise has several very well-placed jump scares, this is much more restrained. This is all handled in the way of entering rooms, and the Shadowman is watching in the corner or standing behind our main characters. I liked the build-up of tension.
The movie also has some gorgeous cinematography. This movie looks incredibly well made regarding the scenic shots that play over the opening credits and all throughout the film. Not sure if the budget had allowed for shots using a helicopter or drone, but passing through the treetops of forests, over the roofs of cars as they travel through mountain ranges or the use of time-lapse to pass the days and nights. This isn't a bad looking film for what I assume had a relatively lower budget. Had this been released by a studio, it may have even been better in pulling off a lot more of the visual flair.
The first significant problem is that there is little to no exposition on any of the main or supporting characters. We are aware that a fire in the town killed several members of the community. Some people lost their family members. It's never really brought up again. Gateways, the mysterious cult are clearly the villains and come into play in the third act, but the one minute of linking them to previous tragedies on newspaper clippings and baby snatching doesn't feel like enough plot. The cult gets less than ten minutes of screentime. A baby is taken, and that's it.
The leader of the cult is said to be a monster by the harbinger of doom. We never get any clarification if he is, in fact, the Shadowman. The harbinger of doom is seen only twice. She's the one to let the main character know important details on the cult, and it's young, mysterious leader. We even have our brothers go to talk to their mother's ex-boyfriend in this weird exchange at a junkyard. It felt cheesy. These characters are odd, but nothing ever becomes of them. It doesn't provide any concrete answers for the audience, so everything feels really messy.
We also have this moment at the end where it feels like it was tacked on. Our main character is on this crusade to find his missing baby daughter who was taken by the Shadowman. We see him all shaven, wearing a hoodie, and looking like he no longer sleeps. We have no idea on what happened to his wife and the cult. We assume he's now on the run. But it feels like they've set up a sequel if this was ever successful or anyone wants to finance it. It just feels out of place and an afterthought.
Lastly, we come to the acting and performances, it's a bit hit and miss. I thought our two leading actors James Zimbardi and Skyler Caleb were both fine in their roles. I even liked their wives played by Andrea Hunt and Emily Somers. Jean Smart is the most well known and established actor in the cast and is excellent in her small role. Casey Kramer as the neighbour is also great who has the most emotional role in the film. It's a shame that all of the other supporting cast feel like they are reading off cue cards. Not very professional.
DEATH TOLL: 2
BLOOD AND GORE:
- Black blood is seen dripping on popcorn.
- A man is smacked in the head with a plank of wood.
- A charred corpse is found under a sheet.
- A baby is taken by a demon.
(There is no blood in the film)
At one time, there was probably a longer screenplay that had much more exposition and character development. I think this is a case of a director and writers having to make do with a smaller budget and minimal time which in turn had them having to reel in their vision. The movie while having the foundations for a solidly scary movie are let down by rushing everything. In rushing the story, they have a film that feels all over the place and answers nothing as it explains nothing. Some fine acting, great cinematography, and incredibly effective mood can't save this film.