In the commercial environment of bad, bad, bad horror films there are many called "so bad it's good" when really only a very few have a sure-fire capacity to entertain on the basis of their awfulness. But right from the beginning of Shadow: Dead Riot (2006) we seem to be on so-bad-it's-good territory, presuming the viewer is openminded about or occasionally fond of trash.
Tony "Candyman" Todd is wearing a totally phony dreadlock wig that seriously looks like there's a soiled mop on his shaved pate. Playing a murderer on his way to execution, Tony as "Shadow" does a successful satanic ritual in his cell, so that when he's soonafter prepared to be killed by the state, he explodes, with his blood spreading throughout the prison, changing the prisoners & inciting a super-riot.
Prisoners are gunned down by the score & afterward tossed in a mass-grave on the prison grounds. And that's just the first act of what will become a Girls-Behind-Bars Kung Fu Zombie Extravaganza.
Twenty years later the prison has been reopened as a women's prison, for the worst of the worst gals in the system. A new bad girl has just arrived. Her name is Solitaire (Carla Greene), so named because she vants to be alone.
We're soon getting right to the girls-in-prison shower scene, hot-cha-cha-cha. At least one of those gals, Mondo, has some real muscles, played by Tatianna Butler in her film debut. Tatianna is a real bodybuilder who has gone wonderfully overboard. I hope to hell she gets to play the heroine in some films, as she really goes hard against everything a movie-babe is supposed to be.
Her popularity on the rather burlesquy bodybuilding circuit suggests there'd be a lot of interest in her extreme type as a movie star, & ideally she'd play the type of role Arnold got when still in his prime, totally straight-faced action thriller. I'm afraid, though, that if she gets more roles she'll be typecast as villain just cuz she's so not mainstream in her radical butch beauty.
The other prison babes are in the main scrawny with a couple wussy tattoos in evidence. There's some trivial lesbo action that is wussier still. Can you say exploitation cinema? And we haven't even gotten to the zombies yet.
Mondo as the biggest butchest girl in the prison wants Solitaire to know who's boss. Elsa (Andrea Langi) the needle-nose white trash prison guard takes "can't act" to amazing new lows as she competes with Mondo for the best babe.
Solitaire on her first day ends up in solitary after wolloping Monda. In the grimy empty dark cell she has her first contact with the spirit of Shadow through the satanic symbol he scratched in the floor twenty years before.
She starts griping to the nutty woman warden that the place is dangerously haunted, like the warden cares.
Crystal (Erin Brown) gets hurt & bleeds on the mass grave & gets sucked into the ground. It's one more step toward zombies, but no zombies yet.
The horny prison doctor's evil experiments turn Mondo into a mindless super-monster so he has to kill her, not that the dead stay dead in this world. The crazy warden wants bodies disposed of secretly, but doesn't interfer with the evil experiments.
Doc's also been experimenting on pregnant Emily aka Preggars (Cat Miller), & further experiments upon the newborn ugly rubber baby that escapes a la It's Alive! (1974). There's a very funny rubber-baby-face-attack action & eventually that baby will bite off it's insane mommy's nipple to better suckle the blood.
At long last psycho zombies begin rampaging through the prison killing girls but getting their asses kicked by Solitaire the kung fu babe. The mad scientist made Solitaire's kung fu super-charged with injections of Shadow's blood which he's been saving since Shadow was executed a couple decades earlier, that stuff really keeps well.
It's hard to say whether dumbass or kickass better describes this movie, but one thing's certain, Solitaire's a hell of a great character. Despite all the film's trashiness, this character strides through the film with power & dignity. I'd love to see Carla Greene playing further roles as aggressive as this one, as she really knows how to pull it off.
Tongue-gobbling girl gruesomely eat-kills Elsa the guard. Mondo is back from the dead for a big rematch with Solitare. "Rage" (Ruby Larocca) with her heart hanging out of her chest performs a last heroic act. Can't argue not much happens in this one!
With Chinese director Derek Wan, & fight choreography by Tony Leung Siu-hung, it's no wonder this feels so influenced by Hong Kong kung fu movies; it practically is a Hong Kong kung fu movie. Indeed, this bloodfest was based on Lai Wong's Gore-fu extravaganza The Story of Ricky (Lik wong,1991), itself a famously bad film.
The changes of Ricky's main cast from male to female, & the addition of zombies, makes Shadow: Dead Riot definitely more than a remake in English. In the original, Ricky is capable of ripping arms off opponents, & the story actually makes more sense if body parts are being ripped off zombies. It can be fun to find parallels, like Mondo being the butch girl version of Taizan in Ricky, Taizan being as faggy as Mondo is dykey.
Shadow of the Satanic Blood returns from the dead fully restored rather than as a zombie. To be immortal he must feast on the blood of his own offspring. Happily, Solitaire/Cassandra is his daughter, in standard "I'm your father, Luke" fashion. But he doesn't really know kung fu, so maybe he won't be as lucky as he thought he'd be.
Most American kung fu babes in exploitation films aren't terribly attractive (if they can fight) & can't fight if they're standard beauties. They certainly can't act, but may at most do the t & a scenes okay since really they were meant to be porn stars.
But Shadow: Dead Riot breaks that rule & goes for a female lead who is comparable to the talented beauties of Hong Kong action flicks. She's gorgeous, she can fight, & she can even act though in a film like this that appears not to have been necessary, thus nobody but Carla & Tony show any acting skills.
I do hope Carla Greene has a real liking for exploitation films & proves willing to play more tough heroines. If she could be in action films that are pretty good ones besides, so much the better. She brings credibility to the impossible situations.
My suspicion is that someone with her talents can do much more serious work if she wants, though most of it probably on television, so if she doesn't have an honest soft-spot for exploitation films, she won't have to appear in any more of them, & that'll be sad for those of us who enjoy down-market movies.
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl