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Dead Shadows  (2014)
2 Stars
Directed by David Cholewa.
Cast: Fabian Wolfrom, Blandine Marmigère, John Fallon, Rurik Sallé, Johanna Seror, Gilles Barret, Vanessa Valence, Laurie Cholewa.
2014 – 76 minutes
Not Rated (equivalent of an R for violence, gory images and strong sexual content).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, April 24, 2014.
"Dead Shadows" was fully developed and financed by first-time director David Cholewa, an important distinction to be aware of as this apocalyptic zombie/creature-feature hybrid plays out. The CG effects are rough around the edges but certainly competent for such a low-budget effort, while some blatant continuity errors and its undernourished script by Vincent Julé give it a homegrown feel despite its loftier aspirations. The outcome is easy to give kudos to, but the film as a whole misses the mark, the story too inadequately explored to come off as more than a derivative variation on everything from Lamberto Bava's "Demons" to Danny Boyle's "28 Days Later."

When he was a child, Chris (Fabian Wolfrom) watched his father go insane and attack his mother on the same night Halley's comet passed overhead. Ten years later, he must face his lingering fear of the dark when another comet approaches, cutting off the electricity and mutating much of the population into psychopaths and out-of-control monsters. As he attempts to make his way back to a party where the girl he likes, flirtatious artist Claire (Blandine Marmigère), is in danger, Chris is pit against a world around him that is fast coming unglued.

What powers does the comet have? What are the motives of the many-tentacled interlopers? Why are some people instantly affected, while others are not? Director David Cholewa doesn't concern himself with answering these questions, but does take pleasure in some goopy scenes of face-melting and a rather ghastly, otherworldly sexual assault. Imagery is the film's high point, from a rather awe-inspiring prologue set in outer space to a set-piece involving a woman who has partially turned into an eight-legged arachnid, but what is between these moments meanders in the face of a paper-slim plot and feet-dragging fight choreography. At 76 minutes, "Dead Shadows" still feels a bit stretched beyond its means and concludes with little of the tragic grandeur it is aiming for. There is certainly worthwhile stuff within, but when it comes to self-made sci-fi projects shot on a shoestring, Gareth Edwards' 2010 dazzler "Monsters" is an impressive notch above.
© 2014 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman