Sunday, 7 June 2020

Among the Shadows (2019) - Horror Film Review

Why is it that vampires and werewolves are always the main choices when it comes to monsters secretly living amongst humanity? The Tiago Mesquita directed Among the Shadows is a political drama that bizarrely decides to include these creatures woven into its incoherent story. I really was trying my best to follow this, but as the end credits rolled I realised I really didn't have much idea about what I had seen at all. My plot summary will be based on what I assumed the film was about.

Taking place in a city in Belgium - after her uncle (John Flanders) is murdered, P.I Kristy Wolfe (Charlotte Beckett - The Demon Headmaster TV series) sets out on a path of revenge to get those responsible. Both Kristy and her uncle were werewolves, and it is soon revealed that both wolves and vampires live secretly among the humans. Kristy ends up getting hired to look into the murder by the United States of Europe President's vampire wife, Patricia Sherman (Lindsay Lohan - Mean Girls) as the uncle had been working with the President on his upcoming campaign.

I really don't know why the movie even bothered having characters be a mix of vampires and werewolves. As far as I could make out both monster types had the exact same abilities and appearance. People don't turn into wolves, instead they can grow fangs, have the ability to read minds, and have glowing eyes. It seemed the sole difference between the vampires and werewolves was that the vampires eyes didn't glow. This is no Underworld though I'm sure it wants to be. Personally I disliked that series of films so having a budget version didn't fill me with joy. You might expect some decent fight scenes at least, Kristy is a capable fighter. Unfortunately whenever the action begins the editing suddenly increases dramatically. The camerawork in general is fine, but as soon as the fighting starts camera angles start to change at the rate of a few a second, making for really hard to follow and unsatisfying fights. Add in close up shaky hand cam footage, slow-mo, and silly over the top noises and you get a bit of a mess.

When Kristy isn't fighting she is getting the typical P.I jaded voice over narration to her walking down empty streets. There are a huge bunch of characters here but they melded into one. This was especially apparent with some of the male cast. There were three actors in particular who looked so alike that I couldn't tell their characters apart, all three of them in their mid forties, slim, and with curly hair. At one point it seemed a good guy had done a huge heel turn, until I realised it was a different character entirely. I never did learn any of their names, the only way I could tell the detective apart from his twins was that he had the most Scottish accent I had ever heard. No idea what he was doing in Belgium, but his accent was just one of multiple. It got so bad at times that characters speaking English had subtitles come up for them. It made a difficult story even harder to follow with such an assortment of varied dialects.

I'm sure political dramas are not meant to make sense. One of the best things I liked about House of Cards is that it was so removed from my own life that it was nice to chill out to. I don't understand much of it but at least it is well shot and acted. Here though everything seemed so random, there seemed no flow to anything that was happening. Kristy turns up at random places to see random people, occasionally violence happens, sometimes people just stand around mind-talking to each other, sometimes she just stands around on her own pouting. I was trying my hardest but I couldn't follow the events of this at all. The acting varies from passable to not so passable, but the script really doesn't help. When you have Kristy spouting such cliched lines as "before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves" you can just tell there was no imagination on show here.

Among the Shadows was a hard to follow political drama that would have benefited by either removing the whole monster part of the story, or by doubling down on it and having the monsters actually look and act like they should do. Instead you have a dull picture whose action scenes can't even save it, due to the confusing way they are shown. Maybe if you're morbidly curious you could watch this to see what Lohan is up to these days (what she was up to in 2015 when this was shot actually), but otherwise there isn't enough here to really satisfy anyone. Among the Shadows is due for release on 8th June thanks to High Fliers Films.


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