Shallow Ground (18)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner25/07/2005

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 97 mins

Grisly B-movie horror flick with an intriguing plot and some seriously disturbing imagery, though it’s slightly let down by the lead actor’s performance.

Distributors Anchor Bay Entertainment are steadily making a name for themselves in the low budget horror-with-cult-potential department, what with Bubba Ho-tep, the under-rated Australian zombie flick Undead and now Shallow Ground, from writer-director Sheldon Wilson. The film has already won Best Film at the 2004 Dead By Dawn festival in Edinburgh and looks set to dig up a few new horror fans now that it’s finally getting a general release.

The Plot

The film is set Shallow Valley, a small backwoods town that’s in the process of evacuation because a new dam has been built. However, just as Sheriff Jack Sheppard (Timothy V. Murphy) and his deputies (Lindsey Stoddart and Stan Kirsch) are preparing to leave, a mute, knife-wielding teenager (Rocky Marquette) walks into their office, naked and caked head to toe in blood.

The mystery deepens further when the blood on the knife turns out to belong to the victims of several unsolved murders, including that of Jack’s ex-girlfriend (Tara Killian), whose life he had failed to save when he had the chance. However, when people start dying in unexpectedly gruesome ways, it soon becomes clear that something far more sinister is going on…

Shallow Ground has a definite Evil Dead vibe to it, which works in its favour as we try to figure out just what the hell is going on. Are we dealing with a supernatural presence of some kind? Or is it just a common or garden serial killer, albeit one with a penchant for hanging naked girls upside down in trees? Or maybe both? Wilson keeps us guessing to the end, but it’s a safe bet that you won’t see the twist coming.

The Effects

The film has some extremely nasty gore moments and Wilson obviously isn’t afraid to be liberal with the red stuff. It also has some amusing twists and turns and provides a cast-iron example of that well-known movie maxim: Never Trust A Little Old Lady (at least not one that’s played by Patty “The Bad Seed” McCormack).

Shallow Ground might as well come with a sticker that says, “B-Movie and proud of it”. However, some of the acting is a little too dodgy, even for something as unashamedly schlocky as this. The biggest culprit is Timothy V. Murphy, who sports an inexplicably thick Irish accent and occasionally seems out of his depth – his supposedly quirky behaviour seems too mannered and threatens to unbalance the film. That said, McCormack is good value and the wide-eyed Marquette makes a memorable…whatever he is.

Wilson has also learned a key lesson from Evil Dead, which is to include moments of dark humour amid the horror. There’s also an impressive score that adds considerably to the atmosphere of the film.

In short, Shallow Ground, like Bubba Ho-tep and Undead before it, is a cult hit waiting to happen. It’s not for everyone, but fans of schlock horror won’t be disappointed.

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Content updated: 18/10/2017 12:12

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