Bram Stoker's Shadowbuilder (1997) poster

Bram Stoker’s Shadowbuilder (1997)


Canada. 1997.


Director – Jamie Dixon, Screenplay – Michael Stokes, Based on the Short Story by Bram Stoker, Producer – Andy Emilio, Photography – David Pelletier, Music – Eckhart Seeber, Visual Effects Supervisor – Thad Beier, Visual Effects – Hammerhead Productions Inc, Additional Visual Effects – Waveform Digital, Special Effects Supervisor – Mark Rice, Makeup Effects Supervisor – Francois Dagenais, Animatronic Creatures – Paul Jones Effects Studios (Supervisor – Paul L. Jones), Production Design – Ian Hall. Production Company – Imperial Entertainment/Hammerhead Productions/Applecreek Communications.


Michael Rooker (Father Jacob Vassey), Shawn Alex Thompson (Sheriff Sam Logan), Leslie Hope (Jenny Hatcher), Kevin Zegers (Chris Hatcher), Andrew Jackson (The Shadowbuilder), Tony Todd (Evert Covey), Hardee Lineham (Deputy Nestor Tibbot), James B. Douglas (Doc Cole), Richard MacMillan (Father Charlie Findler), Catherine Bruhier (Maggie MacKinnon)


A troubled Catholic priest, Father Jacob Vassey, arrives in the small town of Grand River, hunting a demonic creature that lives in and gains its power from the shadows. The shadow creature is taking the souls of the townspeople, gaining strength each time it does so. Vassey and the sheriff try to stop the creature as it cuts the town off and before it gains the strength it needs to possess young Chris Hatcher, a child born of pure soul who is capable of being a vehicle of either good or evil.

Shadowbuilder is one of the handful of films that came out following the success of Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992) and suddenly sought to exploit the interest created in the works of Bram Stoker. Many of these jumped the bandwagon by likewise claiming Stoker’s name above their titles, including the likes of Bram Stoker’s Burial of the Rats (1995) and Bram Stoker’s Legend of the Mummy (1997). In most cases, the connection with any work of Stoker’s is slim to the point that they are simply using the title only – in the case of Shadowbuilder, one is unable to even locate any Stoker story that it is based on. Shadowbuilder certainly tries to exploit the 1992 Dracula connection as far as possible – its opening score is even modelled after Wojciech Kilar score for Dracula.

Despite such ill omens, Shadowbuilder is a modestly effective little film. It has an intriguingly original monster – a demon that can only live in shadows and is burnt by light. The creature itself, seemingly chiselled out of obsidian, is well conceived and its final demonic transformation impressive. There are a number of imaginative set-pieces with it coming after victims:– a body shattering into charred pieces upon being exposed to sunlight in the morgue and then reconstituting as a figure of shadows and attacking the coroner; the priest’s confrontation with it, he causing it to explode into flames with his electric lamp before the creature cuts the power supply leaving him vulnerable; a group of people passing through the woods unaware the creature is hiding in a pipe and its’ hand bursting into flame as it reaches out to touch someone who comes near only for it to encounter sunlight instead.

The shadow demon in Bram Stoker's Shadowbuilder (1997)
The shadow demon

The lead actor is Michael Rooker, an actor who plays usually plays thugs in films and was of course the title character in Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986) and the husband in Sea of Love (1989). Rooker is an interesting actor – he seems beefy and to radiate an emotional hostility – if you met one of the characters he usually plays in real life, you met might assume he was a wife-beater or some such. In an intriguing piece of casting, Rooker plays a priest here, one where he charges in with an action movie moral certainty while also radiating a harsh hostility. Genre regular Tony Todd of Candyman (1992) fame is wasted in a minor performance as a crazy recluse.

Jamie Dixon mostly works as a visual effects supervisor. His one other film as director was Bats: Human Harvest (2007).

Trailer here

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