Release Date(s)2012 (March 19, 2013)
Studio(s)Anchor Bay Entertainment
- Film/Program Grade: C
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: A-
- Extras Grade: D+
Shadow People is a low budget supernatural thriller about a late night talk show host who becomes involved in a series of incidents involving Sudden Unexplained Death Syndrome. He becomes obsessed with finding out the truth of the matter when one of his callers tells him about shadowy figures who are trying to kill him while on the air. Supposedly based on actual events, the film blends interviews with “real people” and narrative in what seems to be an attempt to educate and scare you on the subject at hand, of which it does neither.
In today’s film market, there seems to be quite a few different sub-genres of movies being made over and over again, and one of them is the documentary/mockumentary mixed with drama and/or horror. There’s not really a name for it, but it deals in those areas. Shadow People falls right into this category. It’s a tough genre to get right because making something interesting in this way requires a multitude of variables. The actors play the most important factor, but so does the editing and tone of the film. Sometimes you can knock it out of the park (Bernie) and sometimes you just have a mess on your hands (The Devil Inside). And while Shadow People isn’t quite a mess, it’s not altogether worthy either.
For starters, the film seems to take the approach of The Blair Witch Project, using actual folklore and existing materials as both a backdrop and a showcase for its subject. Videos and articles about Sudden Unexplained Death Syndrome are readily available and the filmmakers used them to their advantage. Secondly, the film’s approach to the horror is completely wrong, and is just what everybody else is doing these days. Instead of creating atmosphere and building up their monsters, they just stretch scenes out in complete silence and then BOOM, loud noises. In other words, jump scares. It’s like going into a haunted house and being scared by the fake monster that pops out at you. That’s not scary, it’s just startling. Third, the acting in this is just mediocre. I didn’t expect it to be outstanding or anything because, after all, this is low budget filmmaking and your choice of actors can be limited. However, the performances barely rise to even mediocre standards while some are just plain terrible. The film attempts to mix things up the drama and toss on interviews featuring other actors pretending to be the real people. Unfortunately, none of it really works that well. The film has some interesting ideas and notions, but that’s about all that it is. You won’t get much more out of it than you would by reading articles or watching videos on YouTube about the subject at hand. Perhaps I’m being too hard on it. It’s not bad, by any means, but it just doesn’t draw you into it the way that it should. It’s all about the jump scares and the interviews. In the end I found it just plain boring.
Shadow People arrives on Blu-ray with a decent enough transfer that won’t wow you, but is certainly adequate enough. Shot on HD video, it definitely has a lot of clarity and texture in the image. It has a very bland, grey-ish look to it, which is by design, so you won’t find a lot of lush color to it. The contrast seems a bit too high as blacks in some of the scenes appear to bright. There’s also some banding present and some soft images here and there, but not in abundance. There’s plenty of detail on display here, so you won’t find much to complain about with the transfer, overall. The audio is presented on a single channel: English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD, with optional subtitles in English SDH or Spanish. Again, like the video, this is certainly an adequate soundtrack without being sensational. It uses the sound field well when it comes to the jump scares, with maybe a tad too much low end. Dialogue is clear and mostly centered, and there are ambient effects abound throughout. So it’s slightly immersive, but not overly so.
The sole extra on the disc is the featurette Shadow People: More to the Story. In retrospect, the disc probably didn’t need a lot of extras because of its attempt to sell it all as “true life” events, so a lot of extras would certainly work against that. I just didn’t feel that it touched ground very well to begin with. An actual documentary on the subject matter would have been far more intriguing than trying to develop a narrative out of it. But it’s not an altogether incompetent film. It’s decent for what it is, but I just didn’t find it all that appealing. But, if you like that kind of stuff, then you’ll probably enjoy it more than me.
- Tim Salmons