Shadowzone (1990)

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When you have a problem with the fundamental premise of a movie, it needs to be really good to get over that hump and be enjoyable. Sadly, “Shadowzone” is not that movie. I mean, it’s got James Hong (aka David Lo Pan off of “Big Trouble In Little China”) and a woman who’s the spitting image of the curly haired one from “One Tree Hill” in it, so that’s nice, but it’s…well, let’s see what you think.

 

A NASA agent has been sent to a research laboratory to investigate the death of one of the scientists there – standard procedure, apparently. Upon arriving at this lab, he discovers it almost empty, as seismic activity caused a cave-in / partial evacuation. Why the agent wasn’t aware of this millions of dollars worth of damage is a question sadly left unanswered. Come on, Mark! This is only the first hurdle, you’ve got to power through this review! Anyway, this – again – high end NASA research base has got a hillbilly repair man, an even hillbilly-er lunch-lady, and three scientists. Because it bears printing more than once – there is less than no chance of NASA having a centre that looks anything like this.

What? Oh, this corpse? Are we still talking about that?

What? Oh, this corpse? Are we still talking about that?

To say their attitude towards the rather gruesome looking death of their colleague is casual is to understate it somewhat. His mutilated body is just lying there, and they let their pet monkey stand on the end of the table while they’re inspecting him. Lo Pan couldn’t give a toss! Based on what happens in the rest of the movie, these attitudes make absolutely no sense.

 

CAROLINE AWARD! Our trophy for movies with full-frontal male nudity is back (if any readers want to design a little graphic of an award, I’d be…well, surprised I have that many readers) Now, this movie does have boobs in it, but nothing below the female waist, so it counts. We see this clothes-absent gent in a tube, as the experiments the scientists are conducting involve severing one part of the brain from the others, and putting the test subject in a super-deep sleep. This opens up a portal to another dimension, obviously, and on setting 31F some mysterious and extraordinarily violent creature who the scientists have named “John Doe” came back through.

X marks the "spot"

X marks the “spot”

John Doe is a creature who can see your fears, or your dreams, or something, and uses this to change its appearance. So what we have is a very very poor man’s version of “The Thing”, as the base’s electronics are shot, meaning no-one can get out or communicate with the outside world (it’s all underground). Everyone is kind enough to split up at the first possible opportunity, to make it easier for Doe to pick them off, and the two hillbillies are kind enough to provide comic relief. When the characters’ biggest fears were being realised, I said to no-one “wow, that monster is clever – my biggest fear is a dull, slow movie”.

 

I think I’ve given you enough of a flavour of what this is all about, so now it’s time to answer why I didn’t even agree with the premise, along with the many issues of execution. Why would NASA have a research station in what looks like a very badly maintained Cold War bunker? There’s no reason at all for them to be underground, for one. Why would it be so poorly staffed? Why does a base with four people need a cook? Why does no-one care about the death of their co-worker? What’s the end-game of the people who are covering up the presence in our dimension of some evil dream-monster? Why did John Doe come to our dimension in the first place?

Jazz hands!

Jazz hands!

And so on, and so on. It’s not a terribly made film – writer/director JS Cardone is perfectly serviceable at the directing part of the job – but it just feels like it was made without any thought for how they were going to end it. And much like just about every single other movie from Full Moon (yes, this has Charles Band as producer), it could lose the middle half-hour and no-one would miss a thing. While the special effects are fun, with real grotesque models, the music is not, supplied by Charles’ brother Richard – you know, the guy who makes the same soundtrack over and over again. Perhaps that’s literally the case, as it’s so dull to listen to that my brain tries to forget it immediately.

 

I feel bad – reading other reviews of this in case there was something I missed (okay, to rip people off) I found a series of people who enjoyed its low-rent trashy fun, who liked the acting and thought it was okay to see a worse version of “The Thing”. Perhaps I suffer from some very specific form of anhedonia, related to the movies of Charles Band? “Shadowzone” was just no good though, and I come back to “what was the endgame of the scientists?” It feels like they shot the first half of the movie then had some catastrophe and had to completely alter the second half. Or that this movie company’s successes are accidental and garbage like this is their baseline

 

Rating: thumbs down

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