Thursday, December 20, 2012
Pack: Tomb of Terrors
Subgenre(s): Crime, Slasher
Length: 77 minutes
Director: Jemshaid Ashraf
Writer: Jemshaid Ashraf
Starring: Jemshaid Ashraf, Ralph Ferraro, Bianca Cheng
Synopsis: After being chased through the woods by a masked man, Max wakes up in a police station to find himself the prime suspect for a series of brutal murders. After events take a supernatural turn, Max soon discovers that someone is playing a game with him. Chased by police and shadowed by a cunning and relentless serial killer, Max soon finds himself trapped in a world in which there is no escape.
Review: Thus, we reach the end of the "Tomb of Terrors" pack with something which you don't see a lot of: a British independent horror movie. There's a good reason for this, of course. No rental chain in Britain will stock such rubbish nor would the average British movie watcher ever be fooled into renting an "indie horror" with the negative connotations that such a term implies. With no market for them, it's only film school experiments like Skyggen which crop up occasionally and then instantly disappear without trace.
I'm sure some people might wonder why the Danish word for "Shadow" is used as a title for this obviously non-Scandinavian movie. The simple answer is Hans Christian Andersen. Andersen wrote a short story about an evil shadow getting the better of his owner and, to give unnecessary credit where it isn't really due, Jemshaid Ashraf re-imagined "Skyggen" poorly as this story. There's only a superficial similarity between the two, but if pushed, you could still call this movie an "adult fairytale".
Skyggen is an overambitious movie especially as it looks like Jemshaid was unable to manage the fine balancing act of directing and acting at the same time. It wasn't the wisest of decisions especially since he can barely act. With Jemshaid's accent, not to mention the thick Northern accents of the rest of the cast, Skyggen would also benefit greatly from subtitles.
The story itself is unnecessarily complicated. Skyggen tries to fuse a big chunk of The Hitcher (1986) with any clone of Identity (2003) to make a psychological horror-mystery which is too confusing and badly filmed/edited to maintain the viewer's interest. Any realistic portrayal of dissociative identity disorder is thrown completely out of the window in favour of some formulaic slasher tropes, plus there's a matter of race which doesn't help things either.
I may have misheard it, but I'm sure there's a line where the guy who I assume is the adoptive father of Max as a young boy tells him to "respect white folks". The latter two words may have actually been the word "adults", but it's really hard to tell. Neither this, nor the physical abuse that someone suffered, still doesn't account for why Max's alter ego is a white Robert De Niro lookalike (Ralph Ferraro). Maybe Max is the alter ego himself since he's dark skinned and a "shadow"? The levels of racism are probably more than I should try to get my head around.
I'd hazard a guess that Skyggen accidentally plays with racial expectations rather than blatantly sets out to break them. There are no racial insults for one thing. None of the white characters are particularly nice, but nobody is all that likeable in this movie anyway, least of all the police. What I think happened was that the friends and acquaintances who Jemshaid Ashraf persuaded to appear in his film are simply quite racially diverse. You wouldn't really expect anything less from two of the biggest cities in Lancashire where this was filmed anyway.
What you really don't expect to see in a movie involving British police is all the handguns. Since when did detectives start carrying pistols? I realise that Skyggen is a fantasy, but that's stretching things way too far. Serial killers, we can all deal with. The Student Union bar doubling for a service station café is also acceptable. But British cops with guns? Nope. Gino Evans and Michael Nahajski do look and act the part of stereotypical cops quite well though.
Having watched Skyggen several times to see if I'd missed anything, I have to say that it's really just a horrible mess which only raises questions because there was undoubtedly never any inclination to begin with to make something which would set them up and answer them. Having the viewers read their own interpretation into a movie is simply one of those horrible "arthouse" cop-outs which gets overused by lazy/amateur filmmakers because they can't tell a story.
No matter how much you want to argue, the fact that this movie is part of a no-budget horror collection rather than being praised as a work of art should tell you something. With bloopers mixed into the end credits rather than any kind of resolution, Skyggen is a disappointing end to the "Tomb of Terrors" pack.
Most Memorable Moment(s): The lovely plate of food that Max eats in the Student Union bar.
Originality: A mixture of The Hitcher and Identity.
Best Line(s): "You're not a very helpful person, are you?"
Worst Line(s): "You're not lost, you're just confused."
Best Effect(s): The blood.
Worst Effect(s): The stabbings.
Goriness (out of 10): 2
Sexiness (out of 10): 1
Profanities (out of 10): 4
Hottest Actor/Actress: The girl behind the Student Union bar.
Picture Quality: Average (4:3 ratio)
Audio Quality: Average
Rating (out of 10): 2
IMDb or Wiki: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1432095/
Final Thoughts: Proving that there's something for everyone in these packs, an Indian is menaced by a Robert De Niro lookalike in the North of England.