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Review: Shadow: Dead Riot

Director Derek Wan’s Z-grade aesthetic is so sad and unpretentious its almost endearing.

Shadow: Dead Riot
Photo: Media Blasters

There’s a stupid commercial in circulation right now in which a father overhears his teenage daughter telling a friend on the phone, “That movie was so bootleg.” She must be talking about Shadow: Dead Riot, in which a serial killer and possible witch doctor played by Tony Todd gets blown to pieces during his execution and whose blood turns everyone into zombies. Buried in the prison yard after getting the Romero-through-the-head treatment, Shadow & Co. emerge 20 years later after the prison has been turned into some experimental minimum security penitentiary for women with big breasts and lesbian tendencies. “Preggers” (Cat Miller) delivers her baby in the exact spot the corpses where buried and, needless to say, the combination of blood and amniotic fluid that seeps into the ground manages to wake the dead. Why do Mondo (Tatiana Butler) and Zombie Baby disappear from the film after being infected with Shadow’s blood? How did the prison personnel that buried the corpses 20 years ago turn into zombies themselves? Asking the film to make sense is futile—like asking shit not to stink—but director Derek Wan’s Z-grade aesthetic is so sad and unpretentious its almost endearing: The film looks as if it was shot in bumblefuck Jersey with a VHS camcorder and financed using the crew’s collected allowance money, and the color palette suggests a set of Hi-Liter markers were used during post. High points include a zombie using his hand to point one of his dangling eyes in the direction of his next victim, and Zombie Baby biting his mother’s nipple off during a breast feeding—natch, a mix of blood and milk flows from the wound. The Troma fanbase might be pleased, but many of the film’s gags, like Solitaire (Carla Greene) using a zombie’s arm as a nunchuck and Shadow spewing blood from his veins like a sprinkler system, feel cluelessly tossed-off. Wan could learn a few things from Larry Cohen, whose films thought long and hard about how their meager pieces fit together and what the final product had so say about the world. They also had the good sense to be funny. Intentionally so.

Cast: Tony Todd, Carla Greene, Nina Hodoruk, Michael Quinlan, Cat Miller, Andrea Langi, Tatiana Butler, Erin Brown Director: Derek Wan Screenwriter: Michael Gingold Distributor: Media Blasters Running Time: 90 min Rating: NR Year: 2005 Buy: Video

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