Shallow Ground (2004)
Director: Sheldon Wilson
Timothy V. Murphy/Jack
Rocky Marquette/The Boy
A sheriff station in some small US town is about to close shopâ€¦I said about. You see, their retirement is abruptly interrupted by a butt naked dude (Marquette) popping up on the scene drenched from head-to-toe in plasma. Itâ€™s up to Sheriff Jack (Murphy) and his crew to figure out who the boy is and what the heck is going on!
I had heard NOTHING about â€śShallow Groundâ€ť before hitting it and therefore didnâ€™t know what to expect. To be honest, after seeing it, I still donâ€™t know how I feel about the damn thing. Man, I hate when this happens! I guess Iâ€™ll figure out my sentiments as a write this review. Here it goes! Wish me luck!
Letâ€™s see, ummmâ€¦.yeahâ€¦well, Shallow Groundâ€™s set up snagged me in fast and the flick itself was extremely well shot (mostly on 16 mm). Iâ€™ll give it that! I also relished the aura of decay that was spread throughout the movie. I would describe the atmosphere to be akin to walking through a cemetery...it simply reeked of death! Furthermore, I enjoyed the stylish directing on display, the creative ways in which blood was used and the use of DV for the flashbacks (didnâ€™t dig the DV inserts though). What about gore? Well, take out your party hats! There was mucho yummy red slosh going on in this madhouse with a couple of powerful moments that went as far to echo "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre". Yes, those bits warmed my gore-hound heart like a â€śPizza Pocketâ€ť being nuked. Lastly, props on the movie for keeping me guessing like a moron on Jeopardy...a couple of its red herrings actually fooled me and Iâ€™m not usually swindled so easily. Good stuff!
Unfortunately, I canâ€™t say that the story stimulated me much. My biggest peeve with it was that it started giving me some (I stress the word some) answers way too late into the game. So for the longest time, I was frustrated as to the chain of events since I had nothing to hold to. I eventually gave up on the narrative (about halfway through) and found myself struggling to care about what was happening. The same could be said about the characters who failed to win me over. Was it the writing? Was it the acting? Maybe a little bit of both. I just couldnâ€™t relate as to how these people reacted to, or handled, the severe situation. I wasnâ€™t rooting for anybody. Iâ€™ll finish off with some random thoughts about the film that will communicate my state of mind. I should warn you, MINOR SPOILERS will arise...Iâ€™ll do my best to be vague:
Hey a-holes, you can't handle this case, call The State Police!
Why are you letting a prisoner handle the radio?
If the prisoner wasn't a threat, why didn't you take him out of his cell earlier and slap that blood-soaked naked loony in there instead? Safer? No?
Hey guys, if a chained-up dude manages to write a message in blood on a door that's out of reach, wouldn't you flip out a bit? I don't knowâ€¦it's pretty "out there"!
These cops are way too relaxed about all this. I'd be in the next state calling my mommy the moment that naked hombre walked in.
How about wiping that blood message off the door already? It's not sanitary!
Doors that slam by themselves are just not scary, likeâ€¦AT ALL!
I guess in this town when a deputy shoots a seemingly innocent man at randomâ€¦it's ALL GOOD!
Nobody truly acts surprised when they get hit with supernatural visions. I guess they must watch Miss Cleo a lot.
Look! Blood is traveling the floor by itself!!! Why isn't anybody petrified?
A trained forensic expert can tell at first glance if blood is human or animal, but can't discern if the blood cells are dead or not. I'm no expert, but wouldn't a pro pick that up right away?
Don't get me started on the killer's "slim fast" motive. I didn't buy it, it was way too thin to come close to justifying the beyond-insane and sexually deviant actions!
What exactly is going on in this film again? Is this an isolated case or is this happening all around the world? Wasn't clear to me.
Why was the "messenger" so aloof? Could've just told everybody what he/she/it wanted as opposed to being so cryptic. And why didn't he/she/it go straight for the culprit instead of playing "riddles" for an hour and a half?
Where did the "messenger" come from and how did his/her/its nature come to be?
That last frame made no sense to me whatsoever.
So thatâ€™s it in a stab shell. Iâ€™m half/half and a mess on this one. On one end, I admired the audacity of the picture, the talent behind the camera and its courage to try to deliver something new. On the other hand, I was frustrated by the lack of clarity, didnâ€™t care for the characters and got grated by what I perceived to be gaping holes in the storyline. It's up to you guys! Because Iâ€™M IN THE FREAKING DARK OVER HERE!
You will see red! We get mangled corpses with hooks pieced into their flesh, a carved-in face, a slashed chest, gun shot wounds, a hand slipping under one's skin, a ripped out heart and more! The effects were mostly of a practical nature and somebody should buy Patrick Magee (the effect dude) a beer for a job well done!
I enjoyed Timothy V. Murphy's (Jack) overall performance, although I did feel that he was too subdued at times. I mean, there's some CRAZY shit going on here. REACT, DAMN IT! Stan Kirsch (Stuart) was adequate as the smarmy Deputy, but he also didn't respond enough to the horror for my taste. Patricia McCormack (Helen) nailed her part in a very convincing manner. Is it me or did she look like Pamela Voorhees? Rocky Marquette (The Boy) was eerie and convincing as the mysterious wide-eyed boy. NOTE: Some of the side players failed to convince me in their roles, therefore lessening the impact of the whole.
T & A
We get at least three tit shots, but none of them were wood-inducing. They were displayed on corpses or tied up victims. The ladies get The Boy (Marquette) showing off his round buttocks and his ding-dong. They also get a couple of shirtless and flabby men.
Wilson displayed a keen and sharp eye with a wondrous use of tight shots, flashiness (reminded me of the TCM picture snapping scene) and a knack for putting out an oppressive, yet bleakly, endearing mood. GOOD STUFF MAN!
The dark, foreboding score by Steve London worked like a slit throat most of the time, but was a tad heavy-handed in moments.
"Shallow Ground", was competently made and very ambitious in aiming to put out a unique genre piece. For that, it has my respect. But from where I was sitting, it tried so hard to be fresh that it lost the handle on itself with an overlong use of the "aloof" card and too many unanswered questions in tow. Check it out and make up your own minds though, I'm curious to see what you'll think of this bad boy! Man, I have a headache nowâ€¦I need some Tylenols and a drink! Off to the pub I go!
Sheldon Wilson's first film was a thriller called "Night Class" (2001) starring Sean Young and Ron Perlman.
"Shallow Ground" won The Audience Award for Best 2004 Feature at the Dead by Dawn Festival in the UK.