In Matthew's grandmother's garden is a gate to the Shadow world, a gate discovered by his late grandfather. Matthew, a nine year old kid, is curious when he sees this large, strange structure in her garden - which is just a pile of rubbish to his grandmother. He also finds a paper that tells him what this structure is built upon - a tunnel, leading to the gate. Matthew soon enters the mystical world and meets the Shadow people. He also finds out about their nemesis, Eldren the White Witch.
It's very common for us horror folks to bring up the glorious memories of discovering the horror genre growing up. But many of us have grown up to plenty of fantasy flicks that certainly kickstarted out imaginations in ways horror, as great as it was, rarely did. For a late 80's child like myself, we're talking fantasy classics like "The NeverEnding Story", "Krull", "Willow", "The Secret of NIMH", "Lord of the Rings" (the animated one) and "Legend". Yes, I am leaving out things like "Jason and the Argonauts" because those are a whole 'nother kind of fantasy. Colin Downey, who made the great psychological horror "The Looking Glass", has managed to put together an independent fantasy feature based on a fairy tale by George MacDonald that brings back all of those long gone memories.
A young kid, Matthew, discovers a strange structure in his grandmother's garden. It was built by his late grandfather, but his grandmother doesn't really care for it - after all, it looks like a pile of crap. But the structure is much more than that - it leads to a tunnel, and at the end of the tunnel is a door. This door leads directly to the Shadow world. This is a world inhabited by - you guessed it - shadows! The shadows are good people and they certainly don't mind Matthew visiting them. However, there's an evil witch whose life force and power is slowly fading, and she needs this little boy to regain her life force. The shadow people, with Yorrick as the front guardian, are doing everything they can to protect Matthew. They also give him his personal protector, Alice.
The strength here is that they manage to capture the feeling of true fantasy films, where you soak in another world and accept all of there weird figures and characters. It's quite an achievement to do that today, especially for an independent feature. It can't be denied that the movie also falls into some traps because of how much it acts and feels like the classics. It's an interesting story executed well, but there's a sense of having seen it before. I think for me to truly get into a movie like this today, it would require stepping out of the format a bit and truly re-create it - still with the nostalgic feel.
The cast is great - Lorcan Melia shines as Matthew, truly carrying the movie. Emma Eliza Regan brings a sense of security as the protecting Alice. Natalia Kostrzewa as the Witch is appropriately annoying and evil. Michael Parle is the trusted guardian Yorrick, and as you know we're huge fans of Michael Parle here. It's obvious that Colin Downey surrounded himself with a great cast and crew before heading down the fantasy road. That's why it works as a whole to begin with.
This is a movie that I would love showing a kid. I have no idea how they would react, but I believe that kids might be the right audience for this movie. It's mature enough for anyone to enjoy it, but adults have a harder time getting into these things unless it has a relatively high budget. Yes, clearly the movie has some flaws in effects and such - but so did many of the old ones. I just doubt I would enjoy the classics today if I hadn't seen them before, to be honest, and that's why I think "The Shadows" could potentially be a hit among kids and teenagers. And of course, it could also be a hit among the biggest fantasy fans! Colin Downey has impressed me again with this one, even though it wasn't entirely down my alley. "The Shadows" is a trip into nostalgia and 80's fantasy epics.