J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

In the Shadow: Sun, Surf, and Supernatural Healing

Why did the documentarian come to the coastal Puerto Rican village? For the grant money, of course. This might be the most honest portrayal of a filmmaker-academic yet rendered on screen. Unfortunately, it is also the scariest thing about Nicole Elmer’s In the Shadow (trailer here), which launches today on digital VOD from Devolver Digital.

Diego Cadena wants nothing to do with Hilary Weiss when she blows into his sleepy resort town. It is nothing personal, he is just becoming increasingly anti-social. Cadena is well known amongst the townspeople for his uncanny healing abilities. However, each time he uses his power, it inflicts extreme trauma on his psyche. The visions are getting more violent and intruding more frequently into his waking life, which could have tragic implications.

Meanwhile, Weiss has not exactly covered herself in filmmaking glory. She has been too busy arguing with her soon to be ex-husband to shoot much footage or do any of that documentary stuff. Yet, for some reason, she decides Cadena is just the man to help her scout locations. She is even more intrigued when she sees Cadena reluctantly use his so-called “gift.”

Michelle Keffer’s Weiss can curse on a cell phone like nobody’s business, but her chemistry with co-lead-co-writer Jorge Sermini is embarrassingly awkward. At least, she has some drive and presence. In contrast, Sermini seems to be at war with the camera—and he loses. Even Danny Trejo cannot save the day playing a sensitive singer-songwriter wrestling with his self-doubts. Just kidding. He briefly turns up as a supernatural badass haunting Cadena’s visions (or whatever they are).

Self-billed as an “art-house horror movie,” Shadow processes a lot of influences, including John Sayles (particularly in terms of pacing), but it confuses mysteriousness with aimlessness. There is some first-class atmosphere and picturesque locations, but too often viewers will be waiting for the narrative to catch up with them. The net results ultimately fall too betwixt and between—too reserved and deliberate for mainstream horror audiences and too conventional for cult film cineastes. For those who cannot resist a helping of Puerto Rican fantastical cinema nonetheless, In the Shadow is now available on digital VOD platforms from Devolver Digital.

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