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An evil Archbishop of the Catholic Church summons a demon to try and destroy the world. The summoners are killed, but the demon escapes to hunt down its needed victim. The victim soon turns out to be a child that has the potential to become a saint. After ravaging the town and turning its citizens upon themselves, the demon soon locates and captures his prey. Written by
Atmospheric religious thriller delivers the goods and then some, but script lacks logic
For a low budget Canadian film, 'Bram Stoker's Shadowbuilder' is pretty good. Though it doesn't get off to a very good start and takes a while to build up momentum, it's massively entertaining, and the production values are better than the gimmicky, error plagued box cover suggests (I'll get to that in a minute). It might not be the greatest horror film ever, but it avoids several pitfalls which most low budget horrors fall for, most namely there is almost no gore in the film, and the director/editor actually threw in some style and flash, rather than the suspense less "suspense" 99% of those B Horrors have (gotta love that effect when Chris first lays eyes on the priest).
The acting is mediocre for the most part, with only one of the characters played well. Michael Rooker, as the gun wielding priest, tries to do his best Donald Pleasance impression, but fails, and ultimately resembles Pleasance's Dr Loomis from the Halloween films much too closely. The rest of the supporting cast is made up pretty much of Canadian nobodies who get the job done, but just aren't all that great. The flicks' protagonist, Chris Hatcher, is played by 13 year old newcomer Kevin Zegers, who handles the part surprisingly well, not making Chris obnoxious or arrogant like most child stars would (and have done many, many times). Instead he goes the much harder route by creating a genuinely interesting character, subtle and low key, much like the film itself.
Even though the producers had access to the special effects wizards behind 'True Lies' and 'The Terminator', they opted instead for the more traditional style of special effects, utilizing lighting, shadows and a very spooky atmosphere rather than heaping on the CG (computer generated) effects. The CG that did end up making it into 'Shadowbuilder' is very impressive and much better than that of even the highest profile direct to video thrillers.
One subplot I really thought should have been expanded on and furthered was the friendship between Chris and his two friends. There was only one scene with the three together, and though it had a different 'feel' from the rest of the film (it would have seemed more at home in a drama than a horror film), that scene was probably the best up until the climax. His two friends do appear later in the movie after they had been possessed by the Shadowbuilder, and it seemed as though Chris had known them better than was explained in the story. I know I'm rambling, but it really does look like some heavy editing occurred before release that shouldn't have happened.
The biggest problem with the movie is the lackluster script. Much of the dialogue is cheesy and unrealistic, and the way that the Shadowbuilder came into being was never fully explained. How was it summoned? What did the bible (which is referred to often in the story) have to do with it? Why was Chris so special and why did he receive the stigmata when baptized? It are these questions that the audience asks themselves over and over again while viewing this film, and if they were properly answered, then I would be reviewing a much better film.
Another thing I wanted to point out was the awful, awful packaging that the VHS version comes in (not sure about the DVD edition, as it was released by a different distributor, Sterling Entertainment- VHS was done by Lion's Gate). Not only does it have a cheesy, holographic front cover ala Jack Frost (not the Michael Keaton version), and there is an obvious typo error on the back- millennium is shown there as millenium, but it looks as though the person who wrote the summary didn't even see the movie! There is a major error which stands out like a sore thumb after seeing 'Shadowbuilder', see if you can find it (hint: has to do with Leslie Hope's character)
An entertaining horror film with a bit of humor mixed in, though it does have its share of problems, a good pick for late Friday night... full moon... 13th of the month... solar eclipse... rent it if you can get a copy, otherwise don't bother.
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