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Overall Rating

Awesome: 11.11%
Worth A Look77.78%
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Pretty Bad: 11.11%
Total Crap: 0%

1 review, 3 user ratings

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Night Shadows
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by MP Bartley

"Or Mutant, or whatever the hell it gets called, it's worth your time."
4 stars

A film seemingly doomed to flop because no-one could decide on its damn name - the original The Pestilence was absolutely fine, before the producers decided calling it Mutant would result in an Alien-sized smash, although it's as equally known as Night Shadows now - it has worn well and is a minor gem in the horror genre.

Two brothers end up waylaid in a small southern town after running into trouble on the roads with some local rednecks. That's the least of their troubles, however, as the town and its mysteriously dwindling population are all falling prey to some kind of infection and turning into ravenous zombie-like creatures that burn and melt to the touch. The message from this film and many others like it is clear - never go anywhere long distance by car and never head south. You only end up in trouble.

The film exists as a salutary lesson that if you do the small things well, sometimes the big things don't really matter that much. It's clearly low budget with director John 'Bud' Cardos borrowing the blue-faced zombies from Romero's Dawn of the Dead and the acting generally only just about passes for acceptable, though Bo Hopkins as the local sheriff and town drunk has an easy-going, cynical charm to him and elevates himself up above everyone else. Elsewhere you won't really find yourself committing any lines to memory, aside from such clunkers as, "Say, is there a chemical plant near here?" (OK, that may be paraphrasing on my part, but the actual line is about as subtle as that.)

However, Cardos does realise the importance of atmosphere and structure to horror and the film excels in both of those. The night time scenes in particular have a prickly unease to them that gets under your skin, with the constant chirruping of crickets in the background and swathes of thick mist covering the town. Cardos pulls off the canny trick of giving you the creeps, even when nothing overtly scary is happening and this, tied together with the slowly-but-surely developed mystery at the heart of the film, keeps the narrative an involving one. Even during the day, Cardos keeps the film sure-footed, suggesting the strangeness of a once-bustling town now practically empty, while patiently laying the groundwork for some great pay-offs later on.

Because what ultimately stretches it from decent to something greatly better and adds another star onto this review, is a genuinely tense and exciting climatic 20 minutes. Starting with an attack in a school where the film gleefully does something most horror films back away from doing, it builds up logically and intensely to a rather marvellously-shot final attack by the zombies, laying siege to the final petrified survivors in an extremely tight spot. Superbly done, it's also interesting to note how similar it is to the zombie finale in Shaun of the Dead.

Night Shadows or whatever you choose to call it, deserves more of a reputation than it has; it's seemingly not even a cult movie; just one barely remembered in the annals of 80s horror. A great shame, as it's much, much better than other unjustly venerated horrors of the time and exists as the kind of thing that cheap cable channels will run at 2:00 in the morning. If you do happen to see that particular programming - drink some coffee and stay up for it. It'll be worth it by the end.

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originally posted: 02/07/11 22:28:08
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User Comments

5/22/06 Sugarfoot Wings is tough to take with an afro, the movie itself was too dark to discern the action. 2 stars
4/17/03 terry short decent modern horror film. the r rating was unwarranted 4 stars
3/19/03 Jack Sommersby A horror classic! Unbearably scary and atmospheric. Hauser is stalwart hero. 5 stars
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  02-Feb-1985 (R)
  DVD: 12-Sep-2006


  02-Feb-1985 (R)

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