Shadows On The Wall (2015)

Success is more dangerous than failure…

Writer: Ben Carland
Director: Ben Carland

Shadows On The Wall is a low budget movie billed as a Sci-Fi Horror though in reality the horror element is negligible.

The main character is Palmer (Chris Kauffmann), a brilliant engineering student with no interpersonal skills who has spent most of his life designing and building strange machines. With the help of fellow students Chase (Tim Fox looking scarily like a very young William Shatner) and Alice (Nicole Lee Durant) he sets about building his biggest and best creation.

The exact details of the machine are, understandably, a bit fuzzy. As far as I could make out it was designed to project a signal using the background noise of space-time as a medium, thus avoiding the need for a traditional wave and the consequent speed of light limitation. Since this is the only machine of its type it’ll have nobody else to talk to, so the three characters basically use it as a super long range camera. Which is all good fun until they focus it on the edge of the visible universe…

Given the Platonic nature of the film’s title I was expecting something metaphysical and Dickian to emerge. In fact it’s all a lot more traditional than that, but still an interesting idea. There’s plenty of sense of wonder and also tension.

At least there is for about 45 minutes in the middle. Unfortunately it takes a very long time getting there; the first act successfully introduces the characters but could be a lot shorter. Whereas the denouement is rushed and feels like the ending of a bad Star Trek episode. It seemed that Carland hadn’t really been able to work out how to finish the story, so just as it’s getting really interesting it suddenly ends with a whimper.

Directing is competent, though Carland is guilty of trying too hard in places with the shaky camerawork and too many diagonal shots. Acting is generally good, especially Kauffmann who gives “the geeky one” more depth than such characters normally get. However all three repeatedly give excessive reaction to events. This looks like it was a directorial instruction, presumably to puncture some tension. It might have worked once, but not more.

So there’s a decent enough core story in Shadows On The Wall, however it’s never really given the breathing space it needs. With a quicker start and a longer, better final act it could become something really good. I’d like to see Carland remake his own movie some time in the future, but the current version doesn’t quite work.