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Shadow in the Cloud (2020) Chloe Grace Moretz - (Horror Movie Review)

Shadow in the Cloud (2020) Chloe Grace Moretz - (Horror Movie Review)
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PLOT: During the second world war, a WAAF (Women’s Auxiliary Air Force) pilot (Chloë Grace Moretz) hitches a ride on-board a bomber, while carrying mysterious and precious cargo. Sent to the ball turret in the belly of the bomber, she tries to warn the sexist, disbelieving crew of a gremlin terrorizing the plane.

REVIEW: Where to begin with Shadow in the Cloud (watch it here). Rarely have I wanted to like a film as much as I did this one, only to find it harder and harder to give it a chance as it went on. While beautifully shot by director Roseanne Liang with DP Kit Fraser, and boasting a top-shelf cast, the film cannot recover from an atrocious script that’s little more than a rip-off of the well-worn “Twilight Zone- Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” episode, albeit moved to WW2 and given a female action hero lead.

That in itself isn’t a bad idea, but anyone familiar with writer Max Landis’ work will be aware that his high concepts are often unable to sustain themselves without major doses of well-executed action. Sadly, the budget here is just too low to effectively mount these increasingly ridiculous sequences, while the characters remain painfully paper-thin.

The first half of the film is where it’s the most effective, with Moretz trapped in the gun turret and only communicating with the crew via radio. In a way, this gives it the vibe of an old-time radio drama, and Liang has some cool tricks up her sleeve, notably the effective use of an anachronistic, synth-based soundtrack and some vivid neon colors. However, the characters are an atrocious blend, with nearly every member of the crew being obscenely sexist, even in the midst of flying gun battles with Japanese bombers. Landis’ crew-guy talk seems more like a nightmarish 21st-century frat house than a bomber crew in the 1940s. While Liang and Moretz have distanced themselves from Landis given the recent controversy surrounding him, the script is readily available on the internet and his mark is still left on the film. The whole concept is built towards these increasingly ridiculous reveals that are hard to invest in as no one in the film feels like a legit, three-dimensional person - not even Moretz's heroine. 

While Moretz is likable, and is certainly a strong enough performer to anchor a film like this, even she can’t save Shadow in the Cloud, especially once her character escapes the gun turret and starts fighting the sky gremlin that’s attacking the crew. One wonders why they even went with the sci-fi angle, as they could have made the threat earthbound and it would have been a lot more effective.

Despite some of the bigger names in the cast, including Nick Robinson and Callan Mulvey, none of the guys make an impression at all. It’s a shame that Beulah Koale, who was great in THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE, is wasted in a role where he’s solely the target of racial jabs and gets very little of his own agency. He’s a powerhouse actor when given the chance but he's essentially playing a bit part here.

What’s doubly frustrating about Shadow in the Cloud is that Liang, as a director, is skilled. The end credits montage, which presents real documentary footage of WAAF fliers set to Kate Bush’s iconic “Hound of Love” (my favorite song of hers) makes me wish that she’d been allowed to do a film about these brave fliers without all of the sci-fi nonsense cribbed from other, better films and the heavy dose of frat boy talk. It's certainly one of the few films to play this year's digital edition of TIFF that's truly worth skipping.

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