November 30, 2010 (U.S. DVD)
Caitlin McIntosh as Laura
Jason Contini as Julian
Carlos Antonio León as Lazarus
Dale D. Moore as Pastor
Don McLendon as Bishop
Vampire lore was firmly set and defined by Bram Stoker with his novel ‘Dracula‘ and has been further reinforced over the years by the multitude of vampire films that have been created since. The concept of the vampire as one who survives on the life essence of another, however, pre-dates Stoker by centuries and even novels describing “sophisticated” vampires were written prior to 1987s ‘Dracula’. Leave it to Wyatt Weed and Independent horror to take the chance of defining vampires in a different way.
At a present-day construction site a buried headstone in the form of a cross is discovered, and when a worker pulls a wooden stake out of the ground from near the cross he unwittingly releases the lovely vampire Laura (Caitlin McIntosh) from her earthen resting place. Laura arises from the mud, mute and without any memory of who she is or how she got there; only the need to find “Main Street” remains in her confused mind and she strikes off for her destination.
Through a series of flashbacks we learn that Laura was once a rebellious teen determined to spend her time with a dark stranger, in spite of her father’s insistence that she get friendly with the local lecherous preacher. Little did she know that her infatuation with the resident bad boy would result in her current predicament, and now she is being stalked by vampire hunters, frisky homeless men and the local police in a world that bears no resemblance to her prior silver-spoon existence.
Shadowland breaks most of the “rules” of vampirism that were defined by Bram Stoker and furthered by most modern vampire fiction. For starters sunlight is not a killer… just a bit of a bright-light nuisance. The thirst for human blood to survive seems to have also gone by the wayside, though it’s not necessarily a distasteful treat. The vampire Laura is more of a semi-innocent child who seems as surprised as anyone by her amazing feats of physical strength and even survival.
As far as Independent Horror goes, Shadowland exceeds expectations in just about every area. The film quality is very slick with excellent sound, lighting and overall cinematography. The budget is presumably pretty low for Shadowland, but there is nothing about the film that betrays this fact… since I don’t actually know the budget it may be higher than I’m thinking – the quality of this production is strong enough that it could go either way. The locations, sets, props, and other elements all work well. Sure, I kind of like it when you can tell that the filming is being done in Mom’s basement or behind old man Wilken’s barn… but those telltale signs of low budget Indie filmmaking are nowhere to be seen in Shadowland.
The performances are generally mediocre, with the exception of Caitlin McIntosh as the confused vampire Laura and perhaps costar Jason Contini as the holy-man/ vampire hunter Julian. Neither one of them will be in line for an Oscar, mind you, but their portrayals were believable and effective. The rest of the performers in the film weren’t bad, just… well; this brings me to my next thought.
What is it about “made for T.V.” films that defines them, makes it obvious from the first frames that the film was produced for television primarily? Is it the soap-opera feel to the shots, a certain quality in the acting performances, the use of camera angles and short cuts to tell the story? When Shadowland began playing on my plasma-screen the VERY first though was that this was a SyFy Channel film that was being released on DVD. As it turns out I can’t find evidence that this is true, but why did I think that? What is THAT quality?
Whatever THAT quality is, it is very evident in Shadowland… but that doesn’t mean that this is not a good film. Highly enjoyable and an interesting twist on vampire lore, along with giving a good reason to root for the “bad guy”, Shadowland is a film that is absolutely worth a watch. This may even be a good candidate for the Beginner’s Shelf to assist in the transition of that fan of Romantic Comedies in your life to Horror Movie Freak Status. For God’s sake, save those people from doom and introduce them to Horror! Shadowland can help you on this worthy quest.