Shadowland follows Cam, an ex-serviceman turned bodyguard, as he and his team get ready to complete a seemingly easy mission: get the Ambassador he is responsible for, along with his family, safely to a function in rural Scotland. While on-route however, it becomes clear that the team are not equipped for what they will face.
This film offers an interesting premise. Opening with a card quoting the number of people who go missing in the woods each year immediately establishes tension and builds anticipation for what will follow; and yet from then, Shadowland struggles to construct any kind of cohesive narrative.
The creative direction makes heavy use of jump cuts in the beginning to provide context and build backstory, yet fails to put it together in a way that achieves what it sets out to do. For example, when Cam is first introduced, he has some nightmarish visions that appear to reference his time as a serviceman which traumatised him in some way; yet this isn’t addressed again until the very end of the movie. There is a character in that scene that is never named, the importance of whom is never explained to the audience, and therefore how Cam might be affected by the ensuing events carries no emotional consequence. And the editing is just one of Shadowland’s many issues. The cinematography is no better, and the monstrous creature running around the forest killing people is barely seen.
The rest of the characters are of little interest. Everyone is an archetype, playing roles that are immoveable and are often played up to no effect. For example, there’s a character called Mick who takes drugs and is mouthy and aggressive, and that’s what Mick does throughout. There is conflict, but no real argument takes place. Cam recognises the drug abuse twice yet it never impacts the story as a whole which raises the question, why is this detail included?
And Mick still somehow has more personality than the other characters. There are only five people on Cam’s team, himself included, yet two of them still have neither personality nor storyline. They seem to be there only for the purpose of a single event in the film; Elaine (Amelia Eve) has a backstory that is never fully explored or explained. The list of senseless plot and character decisions goes on. There’s an attempted hijacking by a character that is never named and the reason for the hijacking is never explained. A character called Kane does a sudden 180 with no proper explanation as to why.
The majority of the flaws found in Shadowland comes down to one thing – it’s only an hour long. The amount of context and explanation that was required for such a premise, for this number of characters, is incredibly difficult to accomplish with such a short amount of time.
Shadowland had an interesting premise with potential to be a decent horror-action movie. It just doesn’t achieve what it sets out to do. Suffering from a limited runtime, hammy dialogue, and inconsistent, under-developed characters, it offers a strange viewing experience that leaves you with more questions than answers.
Shadowland is out now.