Anxiety and paranoia seep from every pore of Carlo Lavagna’s Shadows. We follow sisters Alma and Alexis as they attempt to carve out a life in the post-apocalyptic countryside. They live in an abandoned hotel under the strict eye of their Mother (Saskia Reeves). Every activity they must undertake to survive (hunting, fishing) must be done at night – to venture out in the light risks the wrath of the dangerous SHADOWS.
We don’t know much more than that, and we don’t really need to. The film’s premise in many respects takes a backseat to the character dynamics and overall setting. Mia Threapleton brings a quiet, contemplative balance to the role of Alma. She is often tasked with being simultaneously curious, terrified, furious, and even somewhat maternal (kids are complex, even in an apocalypse!) Threapleton is up for the task, and I’m eager to see what roles she pursues in the future. As younger sister Alex, I felt Lola Petticrew suffered from less screen time, which is remarkable in a film with only 3 characters. As Mother, Saskia Reeves dances on a razor wire stretched between empathy and lunacy.
Beyond strong characters, the film leverages its setting to its full effect in an impressive fashion. The hotel is decrepit and terrifying. The simplicity and restraint of the framing will stick with me – lingering shots of empty, silent halls convey an effective chill without excessive soundtracks or jump cuts. I also loved the way the film showcased the more mundane aspects of survival (collecting water, checking on greenhouses, hunting for food) Survival isn’t always about running and jumping.
Don’t come to SHADOWS expecting A Quiet Place, Part 3. The scares are more cerebral than visceral. But ultimately, it all felt appropriate to me. This is a film more concerned with motivations and relationships than the things that go bump in the dark.
Shadows: 102 minutes / Italy & Ireland / English
Red Water Entertainment has announced the North American VOD debut of Carlo Lavagna’s Shadows. The Irish-Italian psychological thriller will be available on a number of digital and cable platforms, including iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, iNDemand, and DISH, starting November 15th.