Shadows Run Black 1981 Review

Shadows Run Black 1981

Directed by: Howard Heard

Starring: Elisabeth Trosper, William Kuzler, Shea Porter

Review by Luisito Joaquín González

My buddies are interested why I spend so much time writing for this website instead of going out getting smashed every weekend. They are surprised when I tell them that there’s no money in it and they ask why I don’t get a job doing what I enjoy so much. Aside from the obvious, do you know why I could never get work as a film critic? I’m just too damn generous. I find things that I can appreciate in even the worst of rubbish cinema, so I don’t think my opinion would work on those that have high standards. Hell I was even rather entertained by Gigli. I mean, come on!87487373838938932983983

So here we have Shadows Run Black, a film with (at last check) a 2.8 rating on the IMDB. A film that was so bad that it was completed and shelved for five years until one of its uncredited cast members became a Hollywood superstar. So with something reputedly that stinky, could I find anything that I liked?

A killer is on the loose! Press have dubbed a spate of recent homicides to be the work of ‘the black angel’, a killer dressed in dark clothing and his face covered by a mask. Hard nosed detective Rydell King gets on the case and begins to put pressure on a local gang of youngsters. The bodies however keep piling up and it’s looking like the maniac may have a twisted motive.

Recently, the mother board died on my laptop. I called PC World, the place where I bought it, and they quoted me £300 for a full repair. I thought, ‘f**k that’ and decided to attempt to fix it myself. The next morning, when I woke up, I had two screws that were left over (I could swear I put everything back ) and a Sony VAIO that still wouldn’t start-up. I soon realised that I should never have tried something that I have no knowledge of and returned to where I purchased it with some crumpled notes in my hands and my tail between my legs. Shadows Run Black seems to have suffered the same kind of fate as my trusty old lap top, because it is a feature film that’s been put together without a shred of experience.

This is clearly visible with the actors, who speak like they have recently recovered from a lobotomy and never take the dialogue above monotonous mumbles. Look at this example of speech structure from a key moment in the plot. “I’d just feel a bit (pause) safer. Rydell King thought it would be (pause) a good idea (pause) at least until James Scott (pause) is behind bars.” The dialogue carries on this way, no matter what’s going on in the story, and it sounds like a person does when they’re struggling to read the smallest line at the bottom of the card during an eye test at the opticians. ‘Is that an A…erm… Maybe a C? Erm…erm…X?’ You get the idea. Now this was definitely shot in ’81, but it could pass for at least ten years older. This is evident in the music, which at one moment will roll like a jazz session on horse tranquillisers and then will suddenly rupture in to a mighty crescendo of ‘dung dung DUNG!’.

Things stumble along at the same ‘snail neck’ pace as we get introduced to more and more characters without having any idea who the hell they are. It takes a while for us to work out the intended final girl, but thereafter we are given a multitude of vaguely similar in appearance faces that are really only on-screen to be leisurely killed. Oh and get naked. Sorry, how could I forget to mention that? Yes, this is a T&A fan’s wet dream, with tonnes and more tonnes of lady lumps for mass perusal. It’s bordering on soft porn, with at least two lengthy full frontal sequences and almost *every* female in the movie takes off her top for an extended period. There’s not one, but TWO chase sequences where the fleeing girlies have absolutely nothing to protect their modesty. This must hold some kind of record for chicks in their skin suits in a slasher feature. (Only Fantom Killer or The Tower have more).

At the 1992 Academy Awards there was one of the most blatant and terrible crimes in Motion Picture History. How Kevin Costner was not given so much as a nod for his portrayal of Jim Garrison in JFK was astonishing and to be honest it was one of the best performances of that year. Funnily enough, after that tragic lack of deserved recognition, he never reached the same level of credibility and his star began to wane almost as quickly as it had launched in 1985 with the film, Silverado. It was that success which led to the belated release of Shadows Run Black and despite his performance being little better than the rest, he does look the most motivated to add a touch of dramatics. I wonder if he ever looks back on this film or considers it as a stepping stone? I think that more likely, it’s something he has tried his hardest to forget. Kind of like those times when your beer goggles have been especially cloudy and you wake up thinking, “Jeez…. Did I?”

Ok so you’ve probably figured out by now that this is pretty rubbish, but surprisingly, there’s some stuff here that is worth mentioning. The director shows the odd flash of creativity on occasion, like when the killer hides under a bed cover as did Jason in Friday the 13th part 2 of the same year. Also, there’s a (dare I say it) fairly creepy scene, when the boogeyman entices a victim to her doom by leaving a teddy bear at the top of the stairs and calling, ‘mummy’ in an eerie tone. It also tries to explore a few social topics, such as racism and benefits scrounging. Our final girl is dating a black guy, which sends her deranged brother in to a flying rage (The film conveys that his skin tone’s the problem, although I’m inclined to believe it was more the fact that he had the worst Ron Jeremy-like moustache and afro combo that I’ve ever seen.). Anyway, it’s clumsily handled to the point of being offensive and doesn’t go anywhere, but I had to enjoy the part after the racist sibling had almost beaten our leading lady’s boyfriend to a pulp for no reason. In the aftermath, she tried to comfort him, by saying, ‘He didn’t mean any harm.’ Yeah Right!784374873893983983

There’s a humongous number of killings and a shade of suspense during at least one of them, but gore hounds would be advised to steer well clear as there’s barely a shot-glass worth of blood splashed throughout the entire runtime. The killer looks almost funny in a mask that reminded me of a ninja and the actor gives the cheesiest of cheesy blabbering 784784873893893983903scenes when he is finally unmasked. Actually, come to think of it, the motive was quite a good one, but it’s ruined by a silly final battle with a patently obvious dummy being thrown from a rooftop.

So what is there left to be said? Well it ends kind of the way that you’d expect and the killer is the person you’d thought it was all along, but you know what? I enjoyed it. Please DO NOT misinterpret me here, because this is an awful movie and I don’t want any complaints from people who have bought it thinking that it’ll deliver some chills. But I for one didn’t get bored though and there was loads to laugh at that was completely unintentional.

Let’s put it this way. If Mr. Costner hadn’t have found fame, this would definitely never have been picked up for distribution – Never EVER. But as a ‘sometimes fan’ of heinous cinema, I’m rather glad that he did. I preferred it to New Years Evil, so if you like ’em bad, this may just be for you.

Slasher Trappings:

Killer Guise:√√


Final Girl: √



Posted on January 30, 2012, in Slasher, Superstars hiding a slasher movie on the small print of their CV... and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Luisito, I must have come across this movie ten years ago at some discount store or rental store’s sale bin, and without a cover, only the title giving any indication as to what kind of film it might be, which is fine with me. I’ve scored several gems in this manner, so for a dollar or two, why not? Usually, I have the names of a multitude of horror films zipping around in my head when I’m on the prowl for more videos to add to my collection, so I’ll know to nab any if I see them. But Shadows Run Black??? I’d never heard of it. So, I buy, I watch, and proceed to melt in pure, abject stupefaction at the presence of K. Costner in a film such as this. Where’s his name in the credits? Did I miss it? Was that even HIM?? He’s the only actor to come out of this and go onto a major, successful, high-profile career, right? Did he pay to have his name removed from the credits, post-fame? Impossible. Costner would never do that, would he? He’d want us to enjoy his turn in SRB, wouldn’t he? I liked the movie. A lot, actually.

    What’s wrong with me??

  2. Michael Prymula

    I actually found this film refreshing for how progressive it was for it’s time(as horror films in the 80s didn’t exactly have a great track record in terms of minority representation) with not only the lead getting into an inter-racial relationship but the black guy actually surviving for once, I liked the final showdown and I disagree that the film was put together without care, the acting seemed fine to me, also disagree that the film wouldn’t have gotten distributed if it wasn’t for Costner, as i’ve seen FAR worse and far cheaper films with no famous names at all somehow still get distribution(Night of Horror comes to mind). All in all I had a decent time with this film even if the beginning was a little shaky and clumsy.

    • Glad you liked it. I personally think it was crap, but some people even like the worst films on planet earth. Your surname, Polakiem? Ja mówię po Polsku

      • Michael Prymula

        I’d be surprised if anybody liked the worst film i’ve ever seen to date-Dark Heaven, you will know true pain once you’ve seen that shitfest.

        Yes my surname is Polish, though I don’t speak the language myself.

  1. Pingback: The Sleeper 2012 Review | a SLASH above...

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