DEAD SHADOWS (2013) Blu-ray
Director: David Cholewa
Scream Factory/Shout! Factory

Something other than the boogeyman lurks in DEAD SHADOWS, out on Blu-ray from Shout! Factory's Scream Factory special edition line.

IT tech Chris (Fabian Wolfrom) has lived in fear of the dark since childhood when he witnessed his father brutally murder his mother on the night a comet passed by the planet. Ten years later, he works from home as a virtual shut-in, spying on his pretty neighbor Claire (Blandine Marmigère) through his door's peephole and only going out to the corner store for junk food (although his anxieties seem to keep him pretty fit). When news of another comet passing closely by Paris fills the airwaves, Chris starts to notice some bizarre behavior amongst the locals and must make a superhuman effort to be sociable when Claire – who has just thrown her latest boyfriend out – invites him to a comet party thrown by her hipster friends. When the guests start behaving strangely – melting, mutilating, and having sex with alien appendages – Chris forgets all about Claire and turns tail back to the safety of his apartment. When he realizes that he is not alone in his apartment and the violent interlopers come banging on his door, his only chance for survival – and possibly finding Claire – may be partnering up with territorial drug dealer John (Canadian actor/Arrow in the Head site editor John Fallon, SAW II).

Looking amazingly slick for a fourteen-day HD shoot – and sporting CGI animation that is just as good (and bad) as your average big budget sci-fi pic – DEAD SHADOWS isn't bad at all; however, it's nothing particularly new either, with director David Cholewa demonstrating much of his creativity in his able execution of the usual post-BODY SNATCHERS-esque (and post-John Carpenter) paranoid build-up to the invasion. Newcomer Wolfram and Marmigère make for likable leads with what little the script gives them to act, and the action sequences are small scale but well-staged. The ending feels kind of anti-climactic (especially since Chelowa in the disc's interview isn't currently entertaining ideas of a sequel) with a Carpenter-esque abrupt cut to black falling a bit flat (although still welcome). The HD-lensed production DEAD SHADOWS comes to Scream Factory's 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC encoded Blu-ray (framed at 2.00:1) looking and sounding – with sound design by Carpenter's scoring collaborator Alan Howarth – predictably spectacular with DTS-HD renderings of the original French track and an English dub (best avoided) in 5.1 as well as stereo downmixes of both tracks. The optional English subtitles are free of errors.

Director David Cholewa appears in a video interview (33:36) – presumably produced for the German release since the questions are in presented on text screens in that language while the director responds in French – and reveals that although this is his first film (if he helmed any shorts before this they are not listed at IMDb), he has been in the film distribution business for the last seven years (his company DC-Medias has handled the French distribution of titles like the Swedish BLOOD RUNS COLD, the Indonesian SACRED, and the British THE LAST HORROR MOVIE among others) and has learned about what is popular in genre film through attending film market and film festivals in search of titles to distribute. When he decided to direct a feature, he wanted it to be entirely self-financed and partnered with German distributor Michael Kraetzer whose company has handled German releases of everything from DTV horror like CHOMESKULL, PLAGUE TOWN, STAUNTON HILL, and TOKYO GORE POLICE to artier horror flicks like the Paul Naschy starrer ROJO SANGRE, THE MANSON FAMILY, and DREAM HOME as well as transgressive art films like IN MY SKIN, DOGTOOTH, and the genre-straddling unflinching works of Takashi Miike, Shion Sono, and Shinya Tsukamoto (the term self-financed being in contrast to most French film productions which are financed by various television and government bodies). He lists among his favorite directors Dario Argento, Lucio Fulci, John Carpenter – particularly the latter's eighties work (the influence of which is very evident here) – and Bryan Yuzna (he mentions that the comet party was meant to be a homage to SOCIETY but it looks more like a similar sequence in Yuzna's inferior BENEATH STILL WATERS). Of his future projects, he makes brief mention of a script he is working on with DUST DEVIL's Richard Stanley (who stepped back behind the lens recently with a short for the uneven anthology THEATRE BIZARRE).

The "Making of Special Effects" (3:42) segment shows before and after shots of the film's CGI shots (including some bits where extras are used as the guides for the placement of the digital monsters in the shots), while the deleted scene (0:49) do not appear to vary significantly from the scene in the finished film. The "Unfinished Visual Effects Scene" (0:31) is an extension of the ending shot that doesn't really make a lot of sense even in context. The disc also includes a trailer (2:06) and teaser (1:08). Besides one of Scream Factory's customary reversible covers (both of which seem to be original artwork and not one of the line's newly commissioned pieces), the set also includes a cardboard slipcover usually granted to the line's loaded special editions. NOTE: The German and Australian Blu-ray editions apparently feature a 3D option, but this may be post-produced since there is no mention in the extras or in online about the film being shot in 3D (since Scream Factory released the third AMITYVILLE on 3D Blu-ray, I doubt they would have left it off this release if possible). (Eric Cotenas)