|Bram Stoker's SHADOWBUILDER
(101 mins) $24.95
|Video: Full Frame (1.33.1)
|Audio: DD 2.0 Commentary DD 1.0
|Chapter Stops: 18
|Packaging: Keep Case
|Commentary by Director Jamie
Directed by Jamie Dixon
An interesting Canadian horror film
that has its shortcomings but manages to surpass them in the overall
presentation of the film. Itís got a similar plot, one that we have all seen
before: In the small town of Grand River, a small boy is turns out to be the
chosen one, and a demon (the Shadow Builder) is swiftly dispatched to eradicate
the boy to pave the way for an invasion from hell. To be honest, I never read
this Bram Stoker short story, but you can bet the creators took some liberties
(and I hope the Bram Stoker estate gets its royalty check).
The casting is what really hurts the
film. There is some inspired casting such as Michael (HENRY) Rooker as the
crazed Father Vassey, the Catholic churchís own bad-ass, ghost busting, Clint
Eastwood. This character actually rises above the film, and you kind of hope heíll
get his own series. Tony (CANDYMAN) Todd gets the Ďtown crazyí role, as he
discovers that light is the only weapon against the demon, but no one will
believe him. The Ďchosen oneí kid (Kevin Zegers) makes the most of his
material, but the rest of the cast including the leads are generic and highly
The film opens with Father Vassey
interrupting a devil worshiping cult ritual. He pulls out his guns and blows
them away, but not before the smoke demon is summoned (Itís a riot seeing a
catholic priest act like Rambo!). The demon escapes into the sewer system and
finds its way to Grand River. By piecing together some clues, Father Vassey
determines that the demon is after Chris, an orphan who is blessed from God, who
also resides in the small town of Grand River. Meanwhile the demon is
terrorizing the town and getting stronger with each human kill, and when he gets
to full strength he intends to sacrifice Chris during a lunar eclipse. Father
Vassey allies himself with Chrisís aunt and the town sheriff. Together they
must contend not only with the demon, but the residents the demon has touched,
who have come under itís control.
Although there is gore and special
effects in the movie, the filmmakers deliberately attempt to minimize the blood
and guts and focus on suspense, intrigue, and leaving things to the imagination.
This old school approach works. There is also a fair amount of CGI imagery in
the movie. By no means is it utilized like a summer blockbuster, but rather its
on the level of an episode of HERCULES, only used more effectively as in shadow
and smoke movement.
The Shadow Builder demon is equally
impressive. The demon transforms into smoke courtesy of some competent CGI
effects. Thankfully, though the demon speaks (voiced by Steven Blum), It avoids
the wisecracking Freddy Krugerisms that plague most modern horror films today.
The demon is actuality quite restrained, and doesnít stop any attempts to
overcome it. The demon is secure that no one can harm him. This cold confidence
is what actually makes him scarier.
I donít usually comment on packaging
except to say what type of case it is sold in, but the artwork here is
spectacular. Itís a 3-D hologram thing, which reveals different poses of the
title creature depending on the angle you look at it.
Iím not particularly fond of full
frame transfers, but this direct to video feature was filmed that way so nothing
is missing from the image. Additionally, the image is very sharp and well
defined, one of the best full frame transfers Iíve seen yet on DVD. Color
reproduction is vivid and without bleeding, or chroma noise. The blacks and
shadow details are some of the best Iíve seen on a non-studio DVD. Flesh tones
looked natural in all lighting. The CGI effects come through clear and are
well-integrated into the film, and do not distract from the presentation in the
slightest (as some CGI appear to be Ďcartoonyí).
This is one of the better Dolby
Surround soundtracks Iíve heard. While the film would have benefited from a
5.1 remaster, I was surprised how much clarity, directionality, and bass the
surround field put out. Composer
Eckart Seebar did a masterful job of combining traditional symphonic scoring
with church hall chanting the end result is tense, ominous score with religious
overtones enhancing the foreboding factor of the film. The demonís voice
sounds genuinely creepy coming at you from all speakers.
Talent Bios are for actors Tony Todd,
Michael Rooker, Leslie Hope, Kevin Zegers, and Shaun Alex Thompson and Director
Jamie Dixon, who also provides an insightful (though sometimes boring) look into
the making of the film on the commentary track. It is revealed that he has
worked on Digital FX for such films as TRUE LIES and TITANIC. The full frame
theatrical trailer is in stereo surround and is 1 minute 32 seconds long. The
trailer makes the film look better than it actually is, but thatís nothing
BRAM STOKERís SHADOWBUILDER wonít
make anyone forget about BRAM STOKERís DRACULA, but for a modern low-budget
horror film, there is a lot to be said. The film has elements of older, gothic
horror films using suspense and imagination instead of in-your-face nastiness.
The use of digital FX work enhances but does not carry the film, and does not
override the story. There are obvious low budget film restrictions such as
keeping the story in a small town and some generic casting. The DVD mastering is
good and presents the film in a superior way than VHS ever could.
STOKER'S SHADOWBUILDER is available from DVDEmpire.com
Rating (out of 5):
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