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Shapeshifter

Directed by Gregory Lemkin

Written by A. Everett Howe

Starring Jennifer Lee Wiggins, Ocean, Chris Facey, Vaz Andreas

Produced by David Michael Latt, David Rimawi, Sherri Strain

Rated R

82 minutes

***

So what we have here is the positively inexplicable story of a bloodthirsty monster that can look like a human being for a while. Said monster then gets locked up in a maximum security prison.

Which means, of course, there’s gonna be a bloodbath in lockup.

Here’s the interesting part—this is the second of two movies that The Asylum filmed in the EXACT SAME PLACE. Longtime readers of mine might remember my coverage of “Dead Man Walking,” and that’s the first. “Dead Man Walking” and “Shapeshifter” were filmed in the exact same prison.

Immediately, you can tell what we’re in for here…watch the amazing continuity lapse at two minutes and thirty six seconds.

Hooker blood-drenched from the waist up…fire up your frame advance and BAM! Suddenly, she’s had a complete hosedown—nary a speck of blood to be had! And then, as though someone slapped their head and gave a hearty “Oh YEAH! She’s supposed to be waist-up in blood!”—she’s once again soaked from the neck down.

Positively amazing, guys. What HAPPENED??

It’s a bad sign when we’re not five minutes in and the plot’s already got a gaping hole in it. Movies like this make me feel like Tom Hanks in “Cast Away”—Hey Wilson, there’s a HOLE in the raft!

Even worse is the addition of the character “Leonard,” a giant of a man with strength above the average and intellect below. Sound familiar to anyone else?

Now, suddenly, I feel like Tom Hanks in “The Green Mile.” I half expected Leonard to offer somebody some corn bread.

Interestingly, aside from those two substantial gaffes, there’s not much else that’s technically wrong with “Shapeshifter.” If the editors had paid a little closer attention, and the script writer refrained from a little derivation, the slight problems with “Shapeshifter” would have been eliminated.

“Shapeshifter” is a surprise in every sense. Tautly plotted, well acted, and with very believable effects, “Shapeshifter” turns out a lot better than it probably should have. It’s yet another monster movie, but it’s a very well done monster movie. The intermingling of survival horror and locked-room mystery (yes, there IS just a bit of locked-room mystery in this one) adds a surprisingly subtle and all too welcome extra spice.

The ending is a little predictable, but still very well done. Plus, we get a nice little twist on our ending.

The special features include deleted scenes, a behind the scenes featurette, cast and crew commentary, and a strange little montage of clips and background music called “Ode To Shapeshifter.”

I don’t know why it’s there…I don’t really WANT to know why it’s there. It’s…alarming. Genuinely. It’s alarming in the weirdest, funniest, sort of way.

And with twelve seconds left, the funniest part kicks in. A screen of text emerges that reads:

“Scene Fifty-Six Inserts — Missing — Couldn’t shoot it ‘cause no one would co-operate with me.”

All in all, “Shapeshifter” proves to be quite a good, a surprisingly good, little package for a movie filmed in a marathon session on the same set that The Asylum used mere weeks prior.

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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