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FINALLY! Something terrible to talk about…..


I’m not going to lie to you people, I was starting to lose hope.  I know, I know – it was my fault for watching mainstream things I knew I’d be predisposed to enjoy, but it was killing my fire.  To this I say:  

Thank you, Instant Watch.  You’ve brought me back from the brink of niceness and held me firmly in your grasp of suck until finally my feet found purchase on a solid firm of vehemence and anger.  And so I bring you this:  a review of 2008’s Shadow Puppets. Hold on tight, this one’s going to be fun.  

I’ve spoken to you before about my unusual affection for crap horror films, particularly ones featuring Tony Todd.  In addition, I’m in the midst of watching the entirety of Buffy The Vampire Slayer from start to finish (which I had never seen up until now) upon the recommendation of Jenny-Jenny Kickpants, so my radar keenly found Buffy‘s Spike, James Marsters, to be enough of a draw for this one, as he is listed as star, with Todd in the supporting cast.  

At least, I think Todd is in the supporting cast.  I couldn’t get that far.  Come with me now as we explore the many failures and bad decisions that make up Shadow Puppets.  

There’s so much awful in here, I barely know how to start.  Let’s start with the beginning, just like this crap pile does, that seems simple enough.   

Credits: Let’s put it this way:  since the release of Seven and the invention of the innerwebs, every single horror film has had access to Adobe Premiere and a good idea about the best ways of making words look spooky with blurry murder images (usually related to the movie itself in some manner or tone) in the background.  Apparently this revolution in credit theory was passed on by Shadow Puppets.  Instead we get a long, lingering camera roll over DaVinci’s ‘Vitruvian Man’ (because that hasn’t been used nine thousand times already) while a font that I assume is named ‘MunstersLight’ keeps scrolling and rotating all over the place announcing the cast, etc….  

We are on the verge of something magnificently sad when the credits piss me off.  Let’s continue.  

Cast:  I had a pre-existing bias pushing to automatically like Marsters, so you can imagine my sadness when his one emotion in every scene implies ‘Jesus Christ, Why Won’t Sarah Michelle Gellar Lighten Up So We Can Make a Buffy Movie And I Can Pay My Rent Again’.  I have to assume he’s addicted to heroin, Oxycontin or horse cartilage at this point in his life; it’s the only logical explanation for signing this contract.  The female lead is played by Jolene  Blalock whom I’ve never heard of, and hope to forget.  Then there’s a second female lead who I can only describe as ‘some ethnicity’ and whom I was surprised was not played by Gabrielle Anwar, because that would have made sense.  

But then, this:  the lead ‘male in a supporting role’ is a guy named Marc Winnick.  The director is named Mike Winnick.  To summarize: the brother of the director is the second-most important guy in the cast.  Note to all Hollywood producers: This is NEVER a sound business plan, unless your film director’s name is Don Pitt or Roy Clooney.   

 Cinematography: Every single time a character is in any sort of decent lighting or in lighting at all (which, to the film’s advantage, doesn’t happen very often), the edge of their entire body pixelates, while nothing else in the scene does.  This tells me one thing:  somebody spent their entire budget on Marsters and then had to film him on a 400 dollar  HD Handycam.  Classy.  Again: get a copy of Premiere.  Or any video editing software.  ANY of them.  It’s not like they’re hard to ‘buy’.  

Setting: Well, it’s hard to judge this.  It’s supposedly set in an insane asylum, but after a little bit, I wasn’t sure.   

At the start, the primary set is inside the cleanest and brightest rubber rooms I’ve ever seen; no yellowing of walls, no blood smears, just clean and bright.  Granted, I have to assume this is an insane asylum whose business structure is based on basic restaurant management (turning your tables quick = profit), because in the first five minutes, I noted that the ‘patients’ all had unsecured mattresses in their rooms, with removable sheets (yes, ‘sheets’, not ‘sheet’) all under reachable, completely uncovered can lights.  Three instruments of suicide at the ready, that’s nice and convenient.  And we say there are no new ideas for more affordable healthcare options.  

But then, the ‘patients’ get out and start walking around – and there’s two duos here, separated by a flimsy cell door from the Escape From Alcatraz filming in 1979.  Duo one (Former Spike and Horrible Maingirl) go off to wander through the abandoned sets of what appear to be Saw 5 and Altered States until they get to a laboratory from that ship from the third season of Lost.  The other duo (Lucky Brother and Pseudo Anwar) go in the other direction and end up walking through a high school.  I base this mostly on the style of doors, and the scene where they come across the high school pool with a naked girl swimming in it.  

Plot: Okay, here we go!  We open on Jolene Blalock in a rubber room.  And we stay with her for six or seven solid minutes, all of which are spent with her flailing, or weeping, or possibly looking for a sandwich – it’s really hard to tell with this level of emotional range.  She is only in her underwear and she cannot remember who she is or why she is there.   And there are noises.  Then her door opens.  

She walks one room down where she finds Marsters, who is going to attack her, but then doesn’t.  She tells him she doesn’t know her name or how she got there, and that she’s only in her underwear.  Marsters listens carefully and replies that he doesn’t know his name, or how he got there, and that he, too, is only in his underwear.  More noises.  

Photo of Blalock and Marsters viewing the final cut of this assterpiece


They travel down the hall to the aforementioned ‘random cell door’, where they see Lucky Brother and Pseudo Anwar on the other side.  Lucky tells them that Anwar is freaked out, because she doesn’t know her name, or how she got there, and she’s only in her underwear.  Then he continues to tell them that he doesn’t know his name, or how he got there, and he is only in his underwear.  Marsters and Blalock are all like ‘us too!’, and then all of them realize they can’t explore together because of that dumb cell door, so they decide to go into opposite directions and holler out if they find something or whatever.  More noises.  

Lucky and Anwar head down an ever-darkening hallway, where they find some stairs.  He’s like, ‘I’m going down there’, and she says ‘screw that’, so down he goes alone.  This is where he finds the pool, with the naked girl in it.  As he commences to ogle, for no particular reason Anwar decides to come down and join him, and they ogle naked girl together.  Then naked girl sees them, and gets all slutty-flirty and tells them she loves it there, and everybody is going to die.  Then she towels off, and her shadow gets a whole bunch of shadow tentacles flailing out of it.  End scene.  

Meanwhile, Former Spike and Horrible Maingirl wander through a bunch of random sets (including a secured room with a sensory deprivation tank in it – because the tank alone apparently can’t cut it, so it had to be installed in a separate sound proof dark room).  Finally, they come to the aforementioned laboratory, where there’s some dead old guy with a colander strapped on his head in a chair, and a broken IBM 486 from fifteen years ago, and some crazy mysterious machine that’s only been run eight times. I figured that part out thanks to the astute camera shot of the machine which showed a digital counter at the number ‘8’, under the words ‘elemental execution of machine’ or something like that.  I was still a little confused, so thankfully this shot was followed by Blalock explaining to Marsters ‘this machine – it’s only been run 8 times’. Then they put on some lab coats.  More noises.  

Balrog FTW!


 Now, things get awesome.  Suddenly they get viciously beaten by Balrog from the Street Fighter 2 game.  He pounds Marsters into a portable closet, then grabs a scalpel and is fixin’ to cut a bitch when Marsters asks him nicely to calm down, which clearly was all he needed to do to stop the beating.  So then Balrog starts crying, which I had assumed was due to his memory never letting him forget how much Guile totally owned his ass every single time, but I was wrong here. No, it turns out that Balrog is sad because first he thought that Former Spike and Horrible Maingirl were doctors, on account of the lab-coat-and-underwear combos they’re wearing, but now he knows that’s not the case.  Now he’s just sad because he doesn’t know his name, and he doesn’t know how he got there, and he is only in his underwear.  Then his shadow comes off the wall and murders him.  

Quickly, the shadow assumes a corporeal form and begins chasing our two ‘heroes’ down the hall.  And by ‘corporeal form’, I mean ‘somebody really liked the Smoke Monster from Lost‘.  But in a true example of equal opportunity gimmick stealing, as Smokey Jr. chases the two dinks down the hall, the director interjects scenes of the chase from the perspective of the smoke-shadow-thing!  Apparently, if you are born unto this world as a murderous living shadow, you see the world in the same manner as Daredevil, from the movie Daredevil:  everything through shadow eyes appears to be coming to you as if it is a sonar reading taken during a hurricane and filtered through night-vision goggles.  Special.  

So anyway, Smokey 2: Shadowy Boogaloo is coming down the hall, and our leads are stuck at that cell door, and it keeps coming and coming and…..Marsters picks up an oxgyen tank or something similarly randomly-placed-for-helpfulness and smashes the lock at the last possible second!  They then leap into one of the rubber rooms to safety, because apparently ‘Daredevil-vision’ isn’t really responsive to quick plan changes, or it could just be that shadows have a really shitty turning radius.  Doesn’t matter, they’re safe (FOR NOW!).  

Then…..well, I don’t know what happened next, because I gave up.  I couldn’t even make it to Tony Todd’s inevitable awesomeness, and that saddens me.  Total running time:  105 minutes.  I tapped out at the 31 minute mark.  Congrats, Winnick Brothers, you beat me.  This time.  

1 out of 7

One Comment leave one →
  1. jen permalink
    2010/07/10 9:39 pm

    hahaha! sounds like masochism to me brother! give me a diamond in the rough. my next interest is inception… though my expectations are not high. have you seen girl with the dragon tattoo? it is streaming instantly on netflix right now. i highly recommend it!

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