SHADOW PEOPLE – A Horror Mockumentary with Moments of Sheer Terror

by Chris Conway

Much like the medium of film itself, the horror genre has both evolved and mutated into some very specific and splintering sub-genres; one of the more popular recent additions being the “Found Footage” subgenre. Since the release of THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT nearly 15 years ago (A film I personally loathe) there has been an endless onslaught of these types of films. With very few exceptions they are nothing more than a pile of movies about as exciting as your Aunt Gladys’ video of her senior citizens club trip to Niagara Falls.

Now another sub-genre seems to have evolved or should I say micro-genre. It can be either called the horror-mockumnetary or true phenomenon film. Wes Craven’s THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW (1988) in many ways can be seen as the prototype of such a film. The 2009 release THE FOURTH KIND, being the obvious heir-apparent that rebooted the horror mockumentary. The idea of these  is that some obscure “real thing” is presented in a narrative structure that plays slight of hand with viewer using fake interviews as “real interview” footage. For most of them you walk out of the theater (hopefully at a matinee price) or turn of the TV scratching your head and asking – “OK, how much of that was real and do I even care?”

As far as the story goes that his exactly how I felt after watching SHADOW PEOPLE. The story concerns itself with a late night radio host Charlie Crowe (Dallas Roberts) who fields a call from someone claming after becoming suddenly paralyzed in his bed that a shadowing figure enters his room at night. When it is discovered that the caller has died in his sleep – he becomes “Patient Zero” for an epidemic of otherwise healthy people dying in their sleep. The CDC sends in skeptical Sophie Lacome (Alison Eastwood) to investigate the deaths. This drives she and Crowe down of path of discovery into the root cause of the phenomenon.

As I mentioned, I did not like the overall story, I was however impressed with the packaging. Dallas Roberts, who’s only problem lately may be overexposure is great as the beaten down – depressed nighthawk radio host. Eastwood too is very believable as a skeptic willing to leave the door open for something she simply cannot explain.

Most impressive to me was Matthew Arnold’s direction – while this film is in a overall miss, I think he is someone I’d like to see have another go at either with a horror or thriller. There are moments of high tension and terror in SHADOW PEOPLE. Many times during the screening – I actually felt the butterflies in my stomach come to attention. Arnold also does a good job a conveying the utter helplessness of the victims of the Shadow People with noir lit set, precise camera placement and a brooding score.

If horror and some cheep thrills are your thing – then I would say check out SHADOW PEOPLE for buck at a RedBox, or streaming. I am not sure it is going to end up in many permanent DVD collections.

Leave a Comment