Shadowland (Pirate Pictures, PG)

film_shadowland_sm.jpgWyatt Weed has brought to life many colorful and entertaining characters, all of which are wonderfully performed by each actor.








St. Louis is best known for its sports teams (well, the Cardinals), its Italian food and is Arch. It is not known as a place where movies are typically filmed. Outside of a couple of scenes set exclusively at Lambert Airport in Planes, Trains & Automobiles and recently the new Jason Reitman/George Clooney movie Up in the Air, what other films have been shot in St. Louis? Few come to mind.

That may change, however, if the new film Shadowland gets the attention and praise it deserves. Writer/director Wyatt Weed has crafted the world of the movie using locations throughout St. Louis and St. Charles, creating the feel of both a big city and any anonymous Midwestern town. St. Louis is rich in history and culture, both of which can be seen in various areas around the city. While the film intentionally shirks any explicit St. Louis landmarks, St. Louisans will recognize their city on the big screen but will see it in an entirely different light.

The film takes place in present day as a church renovation project inadvertently unearths a vampire who has been buried for over 100 years. In the middle of the night, Laura (Caitlin McIntosh) climbs out of a pit covered in mud with a huge, ostensibly fatal, cut on her throat. She is hungry, mute and very confused about the world around her. It’s obvious that she has no idea what happened to her or what she is, but the audience slowly fills in the holes with information about which Laura is not aware.

Julian (Jason Contini) provides the most insight into who and what Laura is and how she came to be awakened in the 21st century. He attempts to track her down but she is moving fast toward San Carlos, a name that is the only thing familiar to her as she wanders the city. She is pointed in the right direction by a friendly cook (David Martyn Conley) and sets off to make some sense of what happened to her. As she travels through this new and strange world, we see glimpses of her past from over a century ago. She is a beautiful young girl being wooed by a dark and mysterious man named Lazarus (Carlos Leon), of whom her parents do not approve. Instead, they pawn her off on the lecherous pastor (Dale D. Moore) who is purportedly trying to save her.

The film does a wonderful job playing with the conventions of the vampire genre, the horror genre, good guys and bad guys, and narrative structure. Weed has brought to life many colorful and entertaining characters, all of which are wonderfully performed by each actor. The film, which used a St. Louis cast and crew, shines in both storytelling and thematic devices. There is a strong church vs. vampire undertone, but don’t expect anyone to burst into flames or be melted by holy water. Weed is clever in which vampire myths he adheres to, which he downplays and which he invents on his own that add great depth to the film.

McIntosh is absolutely wonderful as Laura, which makes it hard to believe this is her first performance as an actor. Her character is mute through most of the film so McIntosh must rely on her facial expressions and body language to convey Laura’s feelings of confusion and frustration. Weed couldn’t have picked a better actor, as McIntosh’s beauty and natural charm make her the perfect prim and proper daughter at the turn of the century while her physical presence makes her a wonderful vampire, someone you aren’t likely to refer to as "babe" for fear of a good ass-kicking.

Weed and his production team have pulled off a wonderful film which showcases not only his talents, but the charms St. Louis has to offer, as well. Though Shadowland is a low-budget film and falls into the horror genre, labeling it a "low-budget horror movie" couldn’t be further from the truth. | Matthew F. Newlin

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