(a.k.a. Bram Stoker's Shadowbuilder)
Cast: Michael Rooker, Leslie Hope, Shawn Alex Thompson
It's strange that this Canadian production has moments
compared to 99% of Canadian movies that are shot in overcast skies.
even stranger knowing this movie centers around a demon who travels in
and is protected by shadows and darkness! Though since the movie is set
in America, I guess these facts don't become important anymore. No
Canadian made or not, Canadian located or not, is a very good horror
that succeeds by avoiding many horror clichés created in the last
two decades or so.
It also avoids the trend of piling on the blood and guts
movies pile on. There is such material in this movie, but the focus is
on surprises and shocks. A woman being pounced on by a killer and
to death graphically on screen has been done so many times, it's no
scary or interesting. However, a scene where a woman is quickly pulled
into the blackness, and then after a heartbeat of a pause, you hear a crunch
- that's unexpected and chilling. It's apparent the director feels that
a viewer's imagination will always imagine something more terrifying
any filmmaker could show on film.
Michael Rooker (Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer)
Jacob Vassey, a priest with a different method of rooting out evil: two
9 mm cannons, which he uses at the beginning of the movie to wipe out
devil worshipers conducting a ceremony in a warehouse in his city.
discovers that he's too late, and that the worshipers have already
up the title demon, who looks like a cloud of smoke. The demon then
into the sewer system, and travels far into the countryside to the
bland town of Grand River.
Finding the identity papers of a corpse in the
warehouse, Vassey soon
deducts that the demon is going after the son of the dead man, who
in Grand River. Arriving at Grand River,, he locates the boy, and after
hearing about his history, discovers that the boy has some holy
from God, and is destined for greatness. This conclusion come from the
fact that after birth, the boy's hands and feet bled during his
Also that fact that the boy's name is Chris (get it?) may have
to do with it. But even before Vassey arrives at Grand River, the demon
has been terrorizing the town, by killing various residents to build up
his strength and power. When the demon has enough power, he plans to
Chris during the upcoming solar eclipse. With the help of only the town
sheriff and Chris' aunt, Vassey must somehow keep Chris away from the
and the town's rioting residents (who have gone insane from the demon's
Now, I've never heard of this supposed Bram Stoker story
it does exist, I'm sure that the filmmakers took extreme liberties with
the story. No matter. Shadowbuilder, while set in modern
times, stays with the old tradition of achieving horror with suspense
scares. There are scenes in this movie that will make you jump, with
sudden shocks not becoming cheap gimmicks for scares, but as part of
continuing story. Also, director Dixon builds up tension, where we are
made to wait for something horrifying. At one point in the movie, the
blood-soaked mob gathers outside the house where the protagonists are
and.....stand there, waiting. What will they do? When will they do it?
What should the protagonists do? Scenes like this are a lot of fun,
you have no idea what will happen next.
The Shadowbuilder demon is, thankfully, not a screaming
maniac or a
Freddy Krueger-like wisecracker. Instead, he is quite...passive in his
tone of voice and action. He doesn't seem to care much about any
made to stop him or slow him - he just feels these things are minor
in his way to his definite victory. A quite different villain than
and his confidence is what makes him scarier than the usual villain.
cast generally performs adequately, though Rooker, sounding like he
to clear his throat, doesn't seem to quite fit in, though he is never
actively bad or annoying.
The only significant flaw of the movie is that the low
cost of the movie
occasionally comes to the surface. During the riot, we hear people
screaming, fighting, and things being blown up or broken. But when it
to actually showing the riot, we only see two or three people
around at the time, and maybe a small fire here or there. And the
effects, though much better than in a TV show like Sinbad,
are not quite feature film level. Though the filmmakers didn't have the
money to make the effects look better, they at least did have the
to think of some original ideas or direction for the effects. The night
bug attack works, even if the bugs don't look extremely realistic. And
the scene with the old man and the telephone pole uses effects to
a moment so (intentionally) hilarious sick, that I will not tell you
more, except - rent the movie!
I also liked the little details the filmmakers placed in
For example, when the townspeople go insane during the night, we see a
quick shot of a pentagram made with children's toys. Obviously, some of
these little things were placed to compensate for the limited budget.
I really think the filmmakers were having a lot of fun making this
and therefore gave it an extra effort to make it special. The result is
that viewers will have as much fun watching this movie as the
did making it.
Also reviewed at: Cold Fusion
UPDATE: Cámara Hagen Ricardo Raúl wrote in with
"Apparently, the story by Stoker they're referring to
was published in the short-story collection Under the Sunset
(London: Sampson Low 1882). I haven't read it myself, but since you
mentioned not knowing the story's origin, I thought you'd like to know."
for availability on Amazon (VHS)
Check for availability on Amazon (DVD)
Also: Confessions Of A Serial
Killer, Clownhouse, The