aka The Shadow Man
Director – Joshua Fraiman, Screenplay – Adam Tomlinson, Producers – Brigitte Kingsley, Tasso Lakas & Adam Tomlinson, Photography/Visual Effects Supervisor – Andrew Cymek, Music – Adrian Ellis, Production Design – Rosalie Mackintosh. Production Company – Good Soldier Films/Thunder Wolf
Sarah Jurgens (Rachel Darwin), Nick Bailie (Scott Darwin), Adam Tomlinson (William), Nola Augustson (Group Leader)
Rachel Darwin is haunted by night terrors in which she has a vision of a man wearing a hat whose face is always hidden in shadow. Her husband Scott is dismissive of these visions, putting them down to her imagination. However, Rachel is certain that the shadow man is physically in the room when she dreams, even though nothing turns up in the photos she takes. She joins an addictions group where she befriends the weird conspiracy theorist William who is sympathetic and talks about the shadow man being an extra-dimensional being. At the same time, Scott is becoming increasingly unhappy about the fact that Rachel has switched off sex and this causes tensions within their marriage.
When I was reviewing The Nightmare (2015), Rodney Ascher’s fascinating documentary about night terrors and sleep paralysis, I made the comment that he had opened up what would make a rich vein of material for a future horror film. This Canadian film could be one of the first works to take up that challenge. It is a directorial debut for cinematographer Joshua Fraiman. Around the same time, we started to see other sleep paralysis horror efforts with the ineptly-made Alp (2016).
It took me some way in to start engaging with The Man in the Shadows. The film is clearly shot on a micro-budget and the direction and cinematography is anonymous. Everything about the film shouts out middle of the road banality. However, about the point that Sarah Jurgens meets weird conspiracy theorist Adam Tomlinson (who is also the film’s writer) and he voices a wild-eyed theory about the figures in her nightmares being extra-dimensional beings, this immediately propels the film from an anonymous micro-budgeted work into one of undeniably fascinating ideas.
Alas, the rest of the film never quite follows through on any of this – I mean, how wild would it have been if it had had Sarah Jurgens confronting the Shadow Man or start to discover the nature one of these extra-dimensional figures rather than just listen to someone voice a theory. That said, the film does arrive at a rather fascinating conclusion where [PLOT SPOILERS] Sarah Jurgens returns to Adam Tomlinson after a contretemps with her husband and he hypnotises her, only for the Shadow Man to appear and kill Tomlinson, leaving Sarah in a hypnotised state, trapped inside a labyrinth of nightmares and struggling to make herself wake up, only doing so by stabbing herself in the dream. Meanwhile, husband Nick Bailie breaks in only to find the two of them dead and then wakes up to find he has been arrested for killing them.