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Shadow Puppets

Directed by Michael Winnick

Written by Michael Winnick

Starring Jolene Blalock, Tony Todd, James Marsters, Marc Winnick

Produced by Bob Crowe

Not Rated

102 minutes

***

Ever since you were a little kid, you were probably freaked out by what was moving—or what looked like it was moving—in your bedroom at night. That’s the joy of “Shadow Puppets,” taking the worst of the fear of the unknown and packaging it into movie form.

Not to give too much away, but several people find themselves trapped in an abandoned insane asylum. They have no idea who they are, where they came from, or what they’re doing whereever it is they are. So, when they start gathering together in an attempt to find their way out and recover their lost memories, it’s not going to be too much of a surprise that a lot of them will start dying. And now, they have to not only get out, but also get out alive.

You’ve got to hand it to “Shadow Puppets” for immediately throwing us headlong into a set of circumstances that make absolutely no sense. Wake up locked in a padded room where the only furnishing is a mattress and suddenly the lights go out? Man, I’d be freaked out too, and I’m only just watching it.

A normal problem I have with horror movies is that it takes entirely too long to actually get into the action. Interestingly, “Shadow Puppets” has that problem, taking fully a fifth of the movie to even suggest anybody is in any kind of clear and present danger, and nearly a third of the movie for a body to hit the floor. But, due to the spectacular levels of suspense and ominous foreshadowing built up beforehand, I genuinely fail to notice how long it took for anything to happen. Which is, frankly, amazing. A lot of movies with a lot of similar formulae make for a lot of boring experiences. But “Shadow Puppets,” for all its slow, building subtlety, does not bore me.

There’s a lot of action, a great and not overly long buildup, a monster straight out of childrens’ nightmares since time immemorial, and almost as much suspense as action. This adds up to make for one thrilling movie, probably the first genuine thrill I’ve had from a movie in quite some time.

The ending has plenty of twists to it, and some of the best action sequences I’ve seen lately. There’s also an excellent sequence where the metaphorical flag drops, announcing the start of the closing action. It’s a great sequence, and frankly, I find it improves the whole thing. And though one might be tempted to cry foul with the very end, this is really only very minor, and given the events leading up to it was really the only feasible end.

The special features include audio options, cast and crew commentary, and trailers for “Shadow Puppets,” “The Thirst,” “Voodoo Moon,” “Room 6,” “Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon,” and “Hatchet.”

All in all, “Shadow Puppets” is a real surprise, and proves to be horror as it ought to be. And though its only real flaw is an ending that could possibly be called trite, very little should stand in the way of enjoying this movie.

Steve Anderson is a film critic who collects action figures so he can dress them up as his favorite horror villains. He lives somewhere in the United States.


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