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Even before the acting, I have to say that director Silvana Zancolo and cinematographer Pier Luigi Santi have crafted a hauntingly beautiful film. Stuff like an empty swing swaying mysteriously in Maurice's yard, bleak shots of snow on the ground and light being cast through a church's stained-glass window create some truly striking stuff, while at the same time give the impression of the town having been decimated by disease, leaving a dwindling populace. Throw in Paulo Marzocchi's score to accentuate the tension and unease, and you have one reason why the film garnered attention.
Now onto the acting, where Laurence Belcher (Maurice) isn't the only one that impresses. Hayley J. Williams (Marie) does a wonderful job of projecting the protective mother vibe, as well as showing grief and the pain of losing a child. Bonny Ambrose turns in a creepy performance as Madame Armand, who reminded me of Polly Holliday's Mrs. Deagle in some ways (not the over-the-top stuff, though). And, of course, Belcher delivers a great performance as a troubled young boy being tormented by his dead twin. Yeah, that sounds sort of corny, but really the 'because you're dead!' moment really earns the pathos.
On the other side of things, the film is confusing in terms of where the film takes place. Let's see, the film was shot in Italy, but set in France and cast with English actors playing rural French villagers with English accents. Makes perfect sense, doesn't it? The film also feels a little too predictable at times, and the possession scenes feel silly (which doesn't help when the CGI is pretty flimsy to begin with).
Once the lights are turned on, THE SHADOW WITHIN is a creepy little film that's carried by some strong acting and beautiful cinematography. There are moments where the film genuinely scores, and others where the CGI and the setting take you out of it. Regardless, after having sat through some films where you wanted to reach into the TV and backhand some of the kids yourself, THE SHADOW WITHIN is a refresher.