Shadow Hours (2000)


USA. 2000.


Director/Screenplay – Isaac H. Eaton, Producers – Isaac H. Eaton & Peter McAlevy, Photography – Frank Byers, Music – Brian Tyler, Special Effects Supervisor – Dennis Dion, Production Design – Francis J. Pezza. Production Company – 5150 Productions/Newmark Films


Balthazar Getty (Michael Holloway), Peter Weller (Stuart Chappell), Rebecca Gayheart (Chloe Holloway), Peter Greene (Detective Steve Adrianson), Brad Dourif (Roland Montague), Michael Dorn (Detective Thomas Greenwood)


Michael Holloway is a recovering drug addict working graveyard shift at a gas station to provide for his pregnant wife. It is a job where he has to regularly deal with the city’s down-and-outs and crazies. He then meets wealthy writer Stuart Chappell who offers him money to come out on a tour of the nightclubs and vice dens of the city. There Michael is soon tempted back into using drugs and alcohol again. At the same time, the police are searching for a serial killer in the area and evidence suggests to Michael that the killer may be Stuart.

Shadow Hours is an interesting effort. It is a variant on the familiar story of an innocent’s descent into a dark underworld of vice that has proven an oft-recurring theme in films. Other examples might include the likes of Cruising (1980), Blue Velvet (1986) and 8MM (1999). The real source of inspiration for Shadow Hours though appears to have been Fight Club (1999) – both are films that feature an innocent protagonist who is persuaded to give up their entire life and job by a charismatic but unbalanced stranger they encounter who pontificates a philosophy that attacks the accepted moral mores of society. The Fight Club connection is reinforced by a couple of sequences where Peter Weller introduces Balthazar Getty to brawling clubs held in barroom basements.

While undeniably owing inspiration to Fight Club, Shadow Hours has a sufficient degree of originality of its own. Its’ story is more a drama about Christian temptation, one where Peter Weller is cast as a fascinatingly ambiguous Satan. The film never deigns to explain exactly who Weller is – what we are told about the character we later learn is a lie and we are given nothing else about him in its place. His speeches are tricked out with a number of allusions to Dante’s Inferno and The Book of Job. Towards the end, the film even starts to suggest that the character may have supernatural powers and/or might quite literally be Satan. The Devil as always gets all the best lines and Weller has several mesmerising monologues in which he jabs barbs up into religion and the millennial society. It is the meatiest role Weller has had in years and he quite relishes the part.

On the minus side, the film’s descent into the dark side takes a fairly cliched path. The film disappointingly reiterates the view that home and family are the most desirable and sacred things in life. To the corollary, alcohol, sex, drugs, fetishism and games in which human lives are regarded as disposable are all lumped under a single umbrella of dark vice where the film reaches an end where it is considered that one is better off free from all of them. American cinema constantly reiterates this puritanical polarisation and rarely ever considers that there is such a thing as being able to use some of these vices in moderation and without allowing them to control or destroy one’s life. The film also tends to be a little on the banal side when it comes to depicting these vices, although there are a couple of good scenes near the end where we visit a body-piercing club and engage in a game of Russian Roulette.

Balthazar Getty gives a good performance. Getty (who is the grandson of billionaire John Paul Getty) is a promising rising star – he even produces the film. He has both good looks (he is like a young Charlie Sheen) and acting ability to boot. Rebecca Gayheart, another promising rising star, is merely cast as the concerned virtuous wife. There are fine supporting performances from Peter Greene and especially from Brad Dourif.

(Nominee Best Supporting Actor (Peter Weller) at this site’s Best of 2000 Awards).

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