Review: Shadowzone

Since Puppetmaster was more in the direction of movies I wanted to go, I decided to go further back into the Full Moon archives, which brought me to one of their earliest movies: Shadowzone!

A group of NASA researchers are conducting tests in an underground facility in the desert. One subject has died during the test and NASA has sent Captain Hickock to investigate. What he finds is more horrific than the death itself.

I’m going to start this review by spoiling the review: This is one of the better Full Moon movies I’ve watched. Also, remember, with every element in these reviews I am reviewing the movie for what it is: it’s an older movie made on a lower budget. But it is better than a lot of movies with bigger budgets I’ve seen.

The movie makes use of some unusual camera angles to sell the story, and one thing I appreciate about older movies is that when it is dark for the characters it is mostly implied to be dark for us. Which means that even when they are in the dark we can still tell what is going on. I wish a lot of movies would go back to this, as “realistic” dark lighting just makes it hard for me to see (much like “realistic” quiet talking, followed by SUPER LOUD BOOMS makes it hard to hear).

The main characters fit their roles just right: Hickock, the main character, is extremely likeable. Dr. Erhart comes across as weird and creepy. Dr. Van Fleet, played by the familiar James Hong, seems to have something to hide. It works, without being over-bearing. Also, despite having a few obvious “Red Shirt” characters, the movie manages to surprise with which other characters go and when.

Speaking of Hickock, at one point he voices my major complaint with a lot of horror and suspense movies: a character suggests they split up to search for someone and he says, “No, no, stay together.” Thank you! It is always better to have someone else to watch your back when the gore hits the inter-dimensional whirling device.

Also, the concept of the monster is great. It presents itself pretty early on, without being over-bearing. That, combined with the pacing and some seriously good music, builds a great atmosphere for the movie.

All together, I loved this movie. It was a solid B+ movie, and maybe even creeping into A- status — it certainly leaves me feeling better about the remaining movies I intend to review.

Oh, before the report cart below: I noticed what seemed to be a glitch in an early scene. Captain Hickock is portrayed wearing dog tags with the black cover on them in one scene, and immediately following, the dog tags appear naked. It didn’t change the movie at all, just a fun mix-up.

Running Time: One hour, twenty-eight minutes and change.
Acting: Quite good for the style of movie.
Effects: Excellent.
Violence: Yes, but mostly off-screen, which I think adds to the suspense.
Gun Use: There is only one gun fired in the movie, and it only stood out because I am not sure it would hold that number of shells but with the way it was filmed he may have been reloading.
Gore: From just about ten minutes in and onward. Not grossly realistic, so it was more tolerable than usual gore.
Creepy? Conceptually, yes.
Monster Type? Inter-dimensional demon thing.
Funny? When it wants to be — after they realize there is a monster loose, one character yells, “I’m getting the fuck out of here!” for example.
Nudity: And how! There is both male and female full frontal nudity in this film. I wrote “Yes and No” for gratuitous — I get why they did it the way they did.
Pacing: Absolutely spot on suspenseful pace.

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