Rarely do I come across anything in my viewing of horror movies that makes me jumpy or paranoid after turning the TV off. Most times I enjoy the film and then go on about my business with no worries. However, every once in a while a true gem of fear comes along and leaves its imprint on me as I shut off all the lights in the house and head to bed. Matthew Arnold's "Shadow People" had me searching the walls and windows for ghastly spots of unexplained darkness after watching it.
Participants in an experimental sleep study in the 1970s report seeing strange shadowy figures. They and several hundred other individuals die in their sleep soon after. The phenomenon was given the name SUNDS, which stands for "Sudden Unexplained Nocturnal Death Syndrome." Doctors wouldn't talk about the shadows.
In the present, failing radio talk show host Charlie Crowe begins receiving calls from a teenager claiming shadowy intruders are coming for him. At first, Charlie believes the kid is mentally ill. His theory is challenged when the boy dies in his sleep. Things get even weirder when listeners of his talk show and people he tells about the mysterious shadowy figures begin dying in their sleep. Are these clusters of deaths a coincidence or are there sinister nocturnal forces at work?
"Shadow People" takes the sort of ideas our nightmares are made of and puts them in a visual package. Everything you've ever thought about someone or something watching you in your sleep is brought to life in this creepy little indie film.
Director Matthew Arnold shows great promise through his mastery of timing. He has a knack for setting up what you would expect to be your typical jump scare and somehow delivering it in an off-tempo manner that leaves the viewer surprised and shuddering.
I can't say I completely agree with every choice of filmmaking he used for "Shadow People." The movie is presented in the manner of many true crime TV shows are. It's a re-enactment of "true events" with the actual people involved giving their commentary along the way. The concept is interesting but gets a bit distracting as the terror unfolds.
Many religious individuals would express their belief that shadow people are demons or evil spirits. Much like in "The Possession" or "The Exorcist," the person has brought something into their house that allowed the entity access. I am of that mindset more so than any other concept brought up in this.
If I were to compare "Shadow People" to other movies out there just as a way to spark people's interest, "The Ring" and "The Apparition" immediately come to mind. By no means is this a carbon copy of either of those films. They just came to mind as I sat watching it.
The audio and video transfers for "Shadow People" look and sound good. A few of the ghostly scenes created by CGI suffer in a high definition format, but it doesn't ruin the overall viewing experience. The musical jolts used in the movie's score will have the audience pulling their heads out of the ceilings of their living rooms.
The only special feature included on this Blu-ray release is a featurette entitled "'Shadow People:' More to the Story." It gives viewers exactly what it claims to: more information about the phenomenon known as "Sudden Unexplained Nocturnal Death Syndrome" (SUNDS). It's short, but offers additional data to think about as you lie in bed eyes wide and darting around your room as you attempt to drift off to sleep.
"Shadow People" is that rare horror movie that leaves a lasting impression on its audience. The fear might wear off over time, but you'll never completely stop thinking about it. We all wake up in the middle of the night gasping for air, feeling like something is sitting on us, or thinking we're being watched. Is it just our imagination or could it be the shadow people?