Grave Mistake
SHADOWS OF THE DEAD. 2004
Director: Carl Lindberg

GRAVE MISTAKE. 2008
Director: Sawn Darling

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl



Shadows of the Dead A young couple find a dead body on a forest road, but it ain't nearly dead enough, & they end up themselves transformed into the undead.

As Shadows of the Dead (2004) progresses, the couple then hold up in a cabin, trying to keep the sunlight from getting in, struggling against their desire to eat living flesh, & watching each other rot & decay.

When a zombie movie fails it is usually because it's, well, it's a zombie movie, predictable stuff difficult to invest with originality, the usual make-up FX, the usual staggering zombies killing & being killed.

Shadows of the Dead has very little of the usual content, thus fails on the basis of sluggardly pacing & minimal incident & the fact that the kvetching couple don't really drum up as much empathy as would be required for the film to work.

It's even so an improvement over the usual reasons zombie films fail. The acting is better than expected if still weak, & the stage-like minimalism of the piece seems an artistic rather than merely a cheap choice because.

The film really did cost only $25,000, which wouldn't cover the peanut snacks on most film sets. As zombie movies go, this one was a noble try, even if few people will ever mistake it for an excellent film.



Grave Mistake Sometimes I don't know whether to be disgusted or impressed when someone with no talent for filmmaking makes them anyway & even manages some slight amount of distribution.

The amateur zombie flick Grave Mistake (2008) has only one person to be blamed, Shawn Darling. He wrote much of the unimaginative script, staged visual puns that never scored even a smile, directed the non-actors to non-act, personally airbrushed the zombie make-up which is occasional fair to middling but most often amounts to what looks like soot rubbed on the faces of shambling volunteers, & edited the resultant components, which look like fuzzy 8 mm film footage, into a disjointed mess.

It all begins with a drunken goon visiting a puzzlingly isolated grave in order to curse at the "stupid bitch whore" buried there, & further insult her by dumping chemical waste around her tombstone. We never know certainly that this is the cause of anything, but presumedly this was the starting point for what later that day hits the news as mysterious outbreaks of cannabilistic violence in formerly peaceful neighborhoods.

With a lot of lame jokiness, & the usual inability of the swift & the living to escape the even slow & the dead, we are soon given the impression that the hero of the piece could well be halfwit Phil (David Lionbarger) who works at the garage with Mike (James Blackburn).

Pervertedly, Phil's peers are teenage boys, notably Alex (director's son Seth Darling who even as a real teenager has a lot of trouble projecting the personality of a real teenager). Perhaps Phil hangs out with children because he's mentally retarded rather than a perv, but I wouldn't trust him.

Grave MistakeAlex really likes Phil because even as a halfwit he managed to publish a survivalist book on the surviving an uprising of the living dead. When his expertise are unexpectedly actually needed, he's immediately carted away by zombies & eaten.

Hideously bad though Lionbarger's acting was being, the idea of a retarded hero was the closest thing the film had to an original notion, & in killing him immediately as a cheap joke, we never get another character who might've permitted a story, had there been one, to take interesting turns.

That leaves garage mechanic Mike as primary hero & a couple other characters who make it through the majority of the film without taking on much personality. Mike's a vet who was traumatized at boot camp; hard to know if post traumatic stress induced by boot camp was supposed to be one of the jokes.

Typical "humor" is when an Anachronist Society knight in armor decides to be the hero & is immediately hauled away by zombies. The ongoing joke is basically anyone who steps forth into a crowd of zombies is zombie meat. The Anachronist will return for the final scene, & that has to pass as a "surprise" in the plot that he ain't dead, that his armor was too tough for the zombies to eat through.

Unfunny zombie schtick proceeds apace until it reaches the requisit length, then it just ends with no climax. If the film has any structure at all, it's only that the numbers of zombies increase as scenes progress, until in the sudden end there's an endless crowd of the shambling extras. Apparently the director realized that was his first good image in the whole film so he might as well end it right there.

As I said, it's just a matter of one's mood whether such bad filmmaking is maddening, or impressive that anyone this devoid of talent could get a product to market. Today I'm coming down on the side of impressed, as I am with my mentally retarded buddy Tim who has his own successful window washing company. Except Tim washes windows to perfection, & Shawn makes movies that smell bad.

Continue to more zombie films:
The Believers (1987) & The Serpent & the Rainbow (1988)

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl



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