Shadowland (2010)


USA. 2010.


Director/Screenplay – Wyatt Weed, Producer – Gayle Gallagher, Photography – Nicholas Gartner, Music – Patrick Savage & Holeg Spies, Visual Effects – Pirate Pictures, Makeup Effects – Rachel Rieckenberg, Art Direction – Meghan Brown. Production Company – Pirate Pictures


Caitlin McIntosh (Laura Wolff), Jason Contini (Julian Hess), Don McClendon (Bishop), Carlos Antonio Leon (Lazarus), Dale D. Moore (Pastor), David Martyn Conley (Cook), Jay A. Kelley (Homeless Guy), Robert Nolan Clark (Digger), Bill Stine (Mr Wolff), Donna M. Parrone (Mrs Wolff)


In present-day St Charles, remodelling work on a church uncovers a series of artifacts buried nearby. After a cross is removed, a girl who has been buried in the ground crawls out. Filthy, confused and unable to speak, she stumbles through the streets, managing to get food and clothing. The Church despatches Julian Hess on her trail, believing she is Laura Wolff, a vampire that was buried after being turned in 1897. The church believes she is innocent but Julian is determined to stamp out the vampire evil. Meanwhile, Laura’s innocent bumbling in her attempts to survive has turned her into the subject of a massive police manhunt.

Shadowland – not to be confused with the C.S. Lewis biopic Shadowlands (1993) – is a low-budget vampire film that was shot in St Louis, Missouri. I must admit to being suckered in by the film’s promise to offer a very different take on the vampire film. (It doesn’t really). The film is a debut feature for director Wyatt Weed and most of those in the cast.

A vampire attack in an alleyway within the first few scenes did nothing to inspire me about Shadowland – it seemed to be no more than a cheap, amateurish film that was only parroting the cliches of the genre. On the other hand, once the film managed to get heroine Caitlin McIntosh out of the ground, the interest level began to pick up for me. The scenes with her hesitantly and unspeakingly making her way through the streets in a modern world she does not understand are reasonably well conducted. There is a worthwhile scene with her going into a cafe and being aided by cook David Martyn Conley (who gives a fine performance) and then later encountering a homeless guy. Certainly, if this is a vampire film, it leaves you wondering where on earth it is going. Caitlin McIntosh, a former Miss Missouri and Miss Teen USA contender and calendar model with no prior acting experience, holds up not too badly in the title role – the contrast between her afraid and unspeaking and then emerging dressed to kill comes off rather well (even her change into modern clothing is something that seems to improbably abandon all 19th Century modesty and emerge with an instant injection of 21st Century dress sense and assurance).

I kept with Shadowland. The film draws us into Caitlin McIntosh’s flight from the law, which seems to substantially take up the latter part of the film, and create sympathy for her. Jason Contini’s pursuer is created with a moral ambiguity where we are not certain why he is hunting her – even if Contini’s performance seems one made up more of good looks rather than acting depth (or motivation). Alas, the film’s low budget shows through – the vampire effects are so-so, as are the full vampire wings, which otherwise blight the quite imaginative effect where Carlos Antonio Leon sprouts them and takes off into the sky.

I warmed to the story during these sections, enough to want to see how it would eventually play out. The great disappointment of the film is its weak payoff. The film places much sympathy with Caitlin McIntosh resurrected and on the run. If she is a vampire, she is by no means a traditional one. However, when her pursuer Jason Contini confronts her, all that seems to happen [PLOT SPOILERS] is that she turns out to be the vampire he suspects and turns on and attacks him. It seems a decided let down on the build up. There also seems some confusion about what happened to Caitlin McIntosh in the past – the flashback scenes leave us with the impression that the pastor tried to molest her while the end revelation appears to reverse this. This is a film I wanted to work. I could see it in the filmmakers’ effort, something that rises up past its amateurishness in many areas, but the failure to let the complexities of the story pay off and the rush towards a quick wrap-up resolution leaves it feeling unsatisfying.

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