Available Tuesday, July 24th
Jolene Blalock as Kate
Tony Todd as Steve
James Marsters as Jack
Marc Winnick as Charlie
Natasha Alam as Amber
Diahnna Nicole Baxter as Stacy
Richard Whiten as Dave
Jennie Ford as Melissa
Directed by Michael Winnick
Commentary by: Writer/Director Michael Winnick and Cinematographer Jonathan Hale
Behind the Scenes: The Making of Shadow Puppets
Shadow Puppets: Director and Cast Comments
In the world of independent horror there are the ambitious and then there are “the Blockbuster.” These Blockbuster films represent the barrage of DTV, low budget films that show up in hoards every Tuesday morning at Blockbuster stores nationwide. Anytime I walk through the store, perusing DTV titles like Snakes on a Train or Komodo vs. Cobra it just blows my mind how these films are seemingly just churned out by the dozen with no regard for anything besides their almost always kick-ass cover art.
“Shadow Puppets” is a great example of this B-rate level of genre filmmaking. Typical of its previously unheard of peers at the store, “Shadow Puppets” hooks people with its snazzy cover and premise that reminds me of another certain genre favorite. Here, you make a guess. A group of strangers wake up in an unfamiliar, bizarre looking building without any recollection of how they got there or who they are. As the group bands together, they uncover various secrets that begin to explain why they have no memory. All the while, they must run from a strange monster which is afraid of light, blends into the dark and can shape its shadows into knives and various other instruments of death.
This interesting premise is executed very poorly due to some pacing issues and atrocious computer generated effects. We spend almost the entire first hour of the film just meeting all the throwaway characters and hearing the same ol’ “I donât know who I am!” line about once or twice a scene. The ending is likewise predictable and boring with one of the most overly used twists in the history of storytelling.
Acting-wise, we are given a lovely cast of no-namers, highlighted by genre favorite Tony Todd. Our two leads, Jolene Blalock and James Marsters, from television’s “Star Trek” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” franchises, respectively, do an adequate job with the crap dialogue they had to work with. Todd trades his hook in for a handgun in a role that has him acting more ghetto and less creepy. Regardless, I was under the impression that Todd would be some sort of bad guy in the film (as per usual) and seeing him play a good guy AND battle a CGI cloud are highlights on a small list of reasons to see this movie.
However, it just blows my mind why the director decided on utilizing 1997-era CGI that makes our main antagonist, an overly ridiculous gust of black fog, look terribly cheesy even outside of what you may be imagining.
The effect reminded a bit too much of 1999âs “House on Haunted Hill.” However, keep in mind that the enjoyable Dark Castle production was made seven years ago and, even then, the CGI effects looked terrible. When you have limited funds to make a film with, less is always more, and when you have a computer generated fog offing people, I think its time to re-work that script.
The DVD itself is surprisingly pretty decent with a behind the scenes feature, a commentary track and another feature involving director and cast comments on the film. I really cannot see anyone being too stoked to check out these features after such an underwhelming movie watching experience, however.
Outside of the presence of Todd, there is no genre love to be found here. There is little to no gore, only one pair of breasts and any enjoyable cheese is a result of the atrocious CGI and effects. In true genre fashion, however, the director insisted on dressing the women in their underwear throughout the entire course of the film, of which spices up an otherwise extremely boring costume design. “Shadow Puppets” is merely a hodge-podge of stolen and more terribly executed elements found in other genre favorites. I find no reason for this film to exist outside of the aforementioned Blockbuster shelves and inevitably Blockbuster discount DVD bins.