Sam and Paige decide that they need to have a weekend getaway at a family home up in the mountains but their romantic plans get changed when their friends decided to tag along. Everything changes when the group learns that one year ago, to the day, a young couple was brutally murdered at the house they're staying in. This wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for the fact that the murder was never caught and he has returned to celebrate the one year anniversary.
"The Anniversary at Shallow Creek" is the debut title from married writing, producing, and acting duo Eric Fischer and Brianna Lee Johnson and is the latest title to be released by Vicious Circle Films. Their film follows the newest formula for modern horror by mixing in more dramatic story telling with thriller and suspense elements to blur the genre lines.
The story for "Shallow Creek" is that of your run-of-the-mill slasher: A young couple plans a romantic weekend getaway to a summer home up in the mountains, but their friends tag along to turn it into a party trip. However, the simple trip is anything but simple when people warn them not to do what they end up doing anyway. The grave warnings come from the fact that a young couple was brutally murdered at the same house they're staying at, exactly one year ago and the case was never solved. Smash cut back to the house: the killer shows up and the friends fight for survival as they are picked off one by one.
Cut and dry -- as basic as it's going to get. "Shallow Creek" does try to reinvent the wheel, so to speak, in that it tries to go beyond the horror and make a suspenseful and compelling movie. Example: instead of a brutish super-human masked madman with a knife, cutting his way through a movie. We a get masked killer using a sniper rifle to get the body count going and then finishes the job with methodical planning and the occasional dash-n-slash. It ditches the gore and shlock for tension; the audience isn't cheering for boobs and blood while waiting for the survival girl to finally make her move. Instead "Shallow Creek" wants to keep the audience on its toes by taking ques from Hitchcock and making it less horror and more thriller with plenty of ambiguity in order to make for (supposedly) a more meaningful quasi-slasher. Or as Rick Jacobson put it, "The thinking man's b-movie." Technically though, I wouldn't call "The Anniversary at Shallow Creek" a b-movie just like I wouldn't call "Bitch Slap" a thinking man's movie.
Trying to blend genres and adding different elements is all well a good for a movie like "Shallow Creek" but the fundamental problem is that at the end of the day, it is still a basic-formulaic and clichéd movie. This isn't a movie that wants to shake things up by coloring outside the lines -- it's painting by numbers. The only difference is that they're just using different colors to paint with. That becomes the movie's ultimate hurdle; it plays it safe and never pushes itself to go beyond the basics. Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily. For a casual moviegoer this might actually impress them for an indie feature but for the seasoned viewer, there isn't much that will keep them going or that will hold their interest.
"The Anniversary at Shallow Creek" isn't a bad movie: It has some worthy production values with good cinematography, good sound, decent score, etc. The acting ranges from passable to good. The story works, even if it's mundane, and it has a good pace and all that jazz. For a debut movie, Eric and Brianna should be proud of themselves. The big problem is that the movie plays it safe -- too safe -- and it sadly is too basic and clichéd for its own good. The movie works because it goes with the tried-and-true, and like I said, that doesn't make it a bad movie since sometimes you've got to go back to the basics. It seems that "The Anniversary at Shallow Creek" wanted to be more than that though, or at the very least aspired to be, but unfortunately it is pretty forgettable.