Studio: Gravitas Ventures
Director: J.S. Wilson
Writer: Woodrow Wilson Hancock III, Skyler Caleb, James Zimbardi
Producer: Anthony C. Ferrante, Woodrow Wilson Hancock III, Skyler Caleb, James Zimbardi
Stars: James Zimbardi, Skyler Caleb, Emily Somers, Andrea Hunt, Robert R. Shafer, Raam Weinfeld, Sophie Labelle, Casey Kramer, Carlos Pratts, Grace Van Dien, Jean Smart
His mother’s disappearance compels a family man to return to his hometown, where he uncovers a terrifying conspiracy.
Adam hasn’t seen his brother Jake since a hometown fire took their lives down divergent paths of prosperity. Adam and his wife now have an infant daughter, but not enough quarters for laundry. Jake married Adam’s ex-girlfriend, and they have the wealth they always wanted, but their son was tragically taken from them.
Their paths are forced to reconnect however, now that their mother Evette has gone mysteriously missing. Adam returns to his former family home to find his old neighborhood in a “Get Out” trance of oddly positive people for a place where so many loved ones died in a blaze. It seems a bereavement group called “Gateways” has a cult-like grip on the community, and Adam soon suspects they may have something to do with mom vanishing.
Evette’s cagey ex-boyfriend Tom. Gateways’ teenage guru Lawrence. Adam’s half-crazed old classmate Angela. There’s no shortage of strange behavior going on, with each stone overturned causing Adam to keep scratching his scalp.
A collection of dolls with blacked-out eyes found concealed in a crawlspace. Dreams of a dark figure creeping over a child’s crib. Something sinister is certainly afoot. What’s worse, Jake’s wife Christy may be seducing Adam’s wife Beth into becoming a key part of the conspiracy.
There’s a good reason why “Awaken the Shadowman” plays like a patchwork quilt of disparate pieces that don’t fully stitch together. J.S. Wilson, credited as director, is actually a pseudonym for three men who wrote and produced the movie. (Two of whom also play the brothers.) Too many minds with too many ideas explains how an unsatisfying story ends up sending half-formed concepts crashing into each other while snipping ends from subplot threads so they never see any payoff.
“Awaken the Shadowman” contains a kooky cult, small town secrets, creepy dolls with ominous markings, a supernatural shadow person, and next to no explanation for how any of it adds together. End credits come with confusion over what the movie meant to do with its incomplete fiction other than introduce dangling mysteries with no resolutions. What are the cult’s origins? What does the word written on the dolls mean? How is a certain someone connected to the shadow man? The necklace? The junkyard gang? “Awaken the Shadowman” doesn’t follow anything through, leaving its audience going home in the dark.
Characters are crafted chiefly from costumes and makeup. Their DNA is designed from stereotyped templates whether they make sense for relationship connections or not.
Jean Smart, in what I’d wager is the shortest onscreen appearance of her career, plays a well-manicured woman wearing a gaudy bauble around her neck and a perfectly cut ‘do fresh from the hairdresser. Yet we are meant to believe her boyfriend is a gruff grease monkey straight from the Teller-Morrow garage. We know he is bad news too, since his pals have scarred faces and tattooed chests.
Addle-brained Angela is cut from similarly clichéd cloth. Her sketchiness is conveyed through purple eye sockets and holes in her shirt. I’m not sure why her peculiar obsession would give her the appearance of a homeless heroin addict, but the movie doesn’t come up with any better ways to express who she is.
The film is mostly mediocre as opposed to outright awful. But with nothing notable acting as a counterbalance, sore thumb shortcomings simply stand out even more. Douglas Pipes’ strange musical score is distractingly overbearing. Plot progression is a scavenger hunt ping-ponging Adam from dead end to dead end.
“Awaken the Shadowman” also sports warts from some severely spotty amateur acting. No need to name names. Should you watch the movie for yourself, you’ll quickly single out the suspects when you involuntarily react with a scrunched face and inhaled hiss at certain performances.
More imitative than inspired, “Awaken the Shadowman” steps up to the plate with the confident ambition of a low-budget indie. Then it squares up to bunt with two strikes, promptly fouling into an out.
Review Score: 45