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Shallow Ground (2004)

Shallow Ground (2004)

Writer: Sheldon Wilson
Director: Sheldon Wilson
Tagline: Fear your past... it will find you

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Full Review


If you don't like the sight of blood then you won't be able to watch Shallow Ground. It's drenched in blood, there are buckets of the stuff throughout the film. Yes, it's another horror slasher - but not the traditional sort and far better than most.

The film starts with a montage of partly seen, extremely nasty images that are only completely explained at the end. Then we see a young man walking out of the woods - naked and covered in blood. He's carrying a knife, also covered in blood. But whose blood is it?

Set in a backwoods US town, Shallow Ground initially looks like being a serial psycho movie. It very quickly becomes clear that there is more at work here and something else is involved. The young man isn't just covered in blood, in some way it seems that he is the blood.

Of course there are serial psycho killings and unpleasant torture scenes. However they in many ways form the backdrop to rather than the plot of the film. As the story unfolds there are numerous shocks though few real surprises. Even the denouement is predictable in principle if not in detail.

The acting is so-so. They actors don't need a great deal of range and that seems to suit them. Poor Rocky Marquette as "Boy" must have one of the worst roles in movie history: in many ways he's the star, yet he spends the whole film naked, covered in blood and hardly moving! He manages a difficult job very impressively and gives the film an effective central point around which to revolve.

What makes the film work is the atmosphere. Wilson's plotting is by the book yet it shows why the book was written - all the old tricks are used to good effect. It's enhanced by his superb direction and camerawork that turn a mediocre horror story into something I found genuinely creepy. This isn't an intelligent, subtle film or even a funny one. It's designed to bypass the logic circuits and dive straight into the limbic system.

And it works. It should be risible but it's actually quite scary.

The real problem is the plot. It just doesn't make sense. None at all. We don't even know how wide ranging incidents are - there's a suggestion of wider issues but these are never explored. Without that context you have to ask "What? Why? How?!?" - none of which are answered. And the back story would require not just coincidences but a staggering level of incompetence. The story is both unbelievable and incoherent.

So this is a film to be watched and enjoyed as an atmospheric, blood-soaked late night horror. If you can immerse yourself in the atmosphere then you'll be in for a scary treat. Just remember to stop thinking about it as soon as the credits roll or your brain will spoil the experience by asking awkward questions.

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