Shadowzone (1990)

shadowzone_1Starring David Beecroft, Louise Fletcher, James Hong, Frederick Flynn, Shawn Weatherly, Miguel A. Núñez Jr., Lu Leonard, Maureen Flaherty, Robbie Rives

Directed by J.S. Cardone

Expectations: I’ve purposely put this one off for years, so that’s a good indicator of how good I think it’ll be.

On the general scale:
onestar

On the B-movie scale:
twohalfstar


Shadowzone is upfront about its influences, citing both Alien and The Thing right on its current poster at Full Moon Streaming. This is pretty bold for a low-budget movie that has no chance to match those films’ excellence, and it was one of the reasons why I stayed away from the film. I deeply love both Alien and The Thing — what self-respecting horror fan doesn’t? — so I had no interest in seeing a lesser version. As the pool of available Full Moon films dwindles, confronting Shadowzone was inevitable, and thankfully it wasn’t the painful experience I thought it might be.

At a remote and otherwise abandoned research facility, a man from NASA, Capt. Hickock (David Beecroft), arrives to investigate a death possibly caused by the project leads: Dr. Van Fleet (James Hong) and Dr. Erhardt (Louise Fletcher). The scientists are exploring the link between sleep and death, studying Excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS) by cutting the brain stem off from the brain… not literally, but through the blockage of electrical signals. Don’t worry if doesn’t make sense; I didn’t really get it, and I was watching the movie! The characters in Shadowzone talk so much scientific mumbo jumbo that it literally put me to sleep a couple of times.

shadowzone_4This distressed me, even with my low expectations. How could a movie about Nurse Ratched and Lo Pan in an underground research bunker opening dimensional portals not be ultra B-movie gold? But for those that persevere beyond the initial 20–25 minutes, the film eventually breaks open and becomes a good amount of fun. What better to signal this shift than good, old-fashioned head explosion? As soon as Hickock asks the scientists to recreate the circumstances that caused the death, things heat up. Somehow by monkeying with these brain waves, the scientists have unknowingly opened a portal to another dimension… and something has come through to our side! I don’t want to spoil too much, but I will say that this “something” is not a benevolent creature like E.T. or Mac (of Mac and Me)!

The rest of the film is just standard horror fare with monsters attacking humans one by one, but if you’re into this sort of thing, you’ll be entertained. Full Moon films are never especially gory, and Shadowzone is no different, so as long as you go in with the right expectations you won’t be disappointed. What really sealed the deal for me, though, was all the dumb dialogue spoken with passion. A line like “I’m gettin’ the fuck outta here!” might not pop on the page, but when spoken by an emphatic, scared-shitless hillbilly, trust me, it’s fantastic. Some other highlights were, “I don’t know jackshit about fixin’ no transformer!” and “Fuck the monkey!” The cook arguably gets the best of them all, serving up a giant rat on a platter to the hillbilly and following it up with this gem: “That’s dessert, you lazy hillbilly dipshit!”

shadowzone_7When I picked Shadowzone I had no idea what it was about. It actually shares a couple of things in common with the last Full Moon movie I reviewed, Groom Lake. Both films are about the secret goings-on at a military research facility, and both films feature a character doing an approximation of Arnold’s “C’mon! Do it! Kill me now!” from Predator. Really! In Shadowzone, this moment comes courtesy of our freaked-out good ol’ boy, who yells “C’mon chickenshit! I’ll kick your ass!” to the unseen alien, and then goes full-on Bill Duke and fires his shotgun indiscriminately and repeatedly in all directions until it’s empty. There was a time in my life that this kind of stuff would have made me scoff, but I’m happy to say that it now brings me nothing but joy.

Shadowzone was the second Full Moon film to be released, so I wonder if it was at one point slated to be released theatrically under the Empire banner like their first film Puppet Master. The film’s quality supports this theory somewhat, as there seems to be more time and money poured into the film’s limited FX work, but it also bears a very strong Full Moon, direct-to-video vibe so who knows. In any case, it’s an odd film to follow Puppet Master since it’s not especially strong in a traditional sense, but since the company continued to grow I imagine it did pretty well regardless.

If you love B-Movies, and you have a thing for isolated locations and lurking monsters, Shadowzone is pretty fun. It’s not really well made, but it makes up for it with laughs (which are, most likely, unintentional).

Next time I get around to a Full Moon movie I’ll be watching one that I’m not sure is actually a Full Moon movie: the Latin American martial arts film, Chinango! According to IMDB, Full Moon was one of the production companies involved, but I have my doubts. Anyway, see ya then!

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