Shallow ground Review and Opinion

 

 

 

Shallow Ground (2004)
Director: Sheldon Wilson

review by Patrick Hudson

The residents of Shallow Valley, an isolated town in a wooded valley, are packing up and moving on after the completion of the construction work on a dam that has kept them all employed for the last decade or so. Packing at the sheriff's office is disrupted, however, by the entrance of a nude youth covered in fresh blood. It quickly becomes apparent that there is something up with this kid - each of his fingerprints is for a different person, all of whom went missing in the last year, and the blood that covers him is found to come from three different individuals, none of them him.

The sheriff's office setting allows Wilson to stir in a little police drama. Sheriff Jack (Timothy V. Murphy) has fallen apart following his failure to save the life of a girl who was brutally murdered last year, and his depression has stalled his romance with Deputy Laura (Lindsey Stoddart). Deputy Stuart (Stan Kirsch) is a loose cannon with a dark secret. One of the prints on the mystery boy belongs, of course, to the murdered girl, and Sheriff Jack revives from his melancholy to redeem himself.

The frights here are reliable, and director Sheldon Wilson manages to get a good bit of tension going. There are plenty of scary jump-cuts, red herrings, ominous shadowy figures flitting across the backgrounds, and gory deaths. The soundtrack is heavy on the horror standards, too, such as shrieking strings and blasts of brass, and gets a little domineering at times, particularly near the start. The acting is fair to middling, but Timothy V. Murphy makes for a likeable lead.

Ghost stories are peculiar things. On the one hand, the ghost is a figure of horror, while on the other it is almost always a pathetic character with some tragic tale of betrayal and murder to tell. Inevitably, the ghost points to the real villain who can then be confronted and the ghost put to rest. The horror connected with the ghost itself isn't fear of death or threat from the ghost, but the disruption of the natural order, threatening chaos and mayhem. The ghost is a harbinger of doom, a sign from fate that old sins are going to get stirred up, and folks are going to get killed in the mix. Putting the ghost to rest restores the natural order, and the 'good people' can get on with their lives again.

Shallow Ground follows this pattern to the letter. While a competent shocker, it makes no attempt to stretch the boundaries of the genre. In fact, the unapologetically exploitative murder scenes suggest an eye on the video and DVD market rather than the subtleties of the horror genre.

The storyline had me scratching my head on several occasions. I wasn't very sure what Deputy Laura's dad - city cop Detective Ray - had to do with it all, and neither was it clear how he knew what the ghost wanted. At one stage Deputy Stuart shot the town drunk after having visions caused by contact with the ghost boy, but I couldn't decide if the apparently harmless bum really was a killer, whether we were supposed to think that he was the killer that Sheriff Jack was looking for, or if ghost boy was just messing with Deputy Stuart's mind.

Most bizarre was the sheer number of murders in the little town of Shallow Valley required for the dénouement to make sense. The body-count for the final scene exceeds that of many of the world's more enthusiastic serial murderers, and could surely not have occurred in such a small town without summoning the FBI. Because the film's dramatic structure leans so much on the police drama, where this sort of omission would be inexcusable, the climax seemed to come from a different film entirely.

There is a little too much going in Shallow Ground to fit effectively into its 90-minute running time. I think we could have lost Detective Ray and Deputy Stuart's subplot and spent a little more time building suspension of disbelief for the finale. Even so, this would still be a good-not-great film. The concept and execution are unexceptional, but it is constructed with a firm control of the technical elements. There are some good scares and Wilson has a talent for creating tension, but the clichééd and illogical story elements finally overcame my willingness to go along with the ride.

 


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Shallow ground Review and Opinion

Shallow ground Review and Opinion

Shallow Ground (2004) Director: Sheldon Wilsonreview by Patrick HudsonThe residents of Shallow Valley, an isolated town in a wooded valley, are packing up and

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2024-05-19

 

Shallow ground Review and Opinion
Shallow ground Review and Opinion

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