It’s happened to you: You awake suddenly, “paralyzed” in bed. You see them, shadows lurking outside your visual periphery. Moving and screaming seem impossible. You are terrified. Welcome to sleep paralysis, a phenomenon addressed in Anchor Bay horror film “Shadow People” (SP) – which was released on DVD March 19.
Dallas Roberts (“The Walking Dead”) is Charlie, a radio host delving into the urban legend of the Shadow People, who are apparently killing people in their sleep. As such, SP presents a real condition called Sudden Unexplained Nocturnal Death Syndrome (SUNDS), which reached alarming numbers in the 70s and 80s.
You can already see where we’re going with this. “Shadow People” has all the makings of a really terrifying film - depending upon your personal freak-out level. Where supernatural horror films go, this one definitely touches upon new territory. As you observe how this movie stacks up against the rest, consider these pros and cons…
Pro - Sleep paralysis is the perfect topic for a horror film.
The scariest things in the world are those that can’t be explained. That hallucinations often accompany sleep paralysis, lends itself well to the genre. SUNDS inspired Wes Craven to develop the story behind “A Nightmare on Elm Street.” Couple these two concepts and you’ve got the makings for pure terror.
Con – The movie could have been scarier.
That being said, you’d think that a movie about menacing shadows in the night would generate more powerful scares. SP had quite a few creepy moments. But they were bogged down by the movie’s other distractions.
Pro – We get to see another side of “The Walking Dead’s” Dallas Roberts.
After watching actor Dallas Roberts as mealy-mouthed Milton on “The Walking Dead”, it’s refreshing to see him return to a darker, more rugged personality. Dallas channels that “angsty” loneliness that works so well in this type of fare.
Con – Sometimes less is more.
On the other hand, his tortured vibe is dialed up a bit too much. The effect is that Roberts comes across like David Duchovny on Five-Hour-Energy.
Pro – Found footage slant makes the premise believable.
Though this movie is said to be based on a true story, we get the feeling that some liberties have been taken here. Nonetheless, the mix of real and fake editorial copy gives us tons of food for thought.
Con – The pacing suffers.
Although the interviews and such carry a good deal of weight, you get the impression that you’re watching a lot of little movies strung together, with some genuinely creepy moments tossed in for good measure. The awkward pacing makes it more difficult for the characters to establish any chemistry.
Pro - Causing a mass hysteria is one way to generate record-setting ticket sales.
We like horror that conveys an “it can happen to you” type of energy. This is where “Shadow People” succeeds.
Con - The film might subsequently kill its viewers.
It’s implied that merely thinking about these dreadful entities has the same effect as handing over a cursed tape. Can watching this film kill us? That couldn’t be good. Perhaps that’s why “Shadow People” never made it to theaters.