[SPOILER ALERT!] Shadow Puppets [SPOILER ALERT!]
It’s day three of the Horror Movie Marathon! We watch our movie for today at lunchtime on a gray day. It’s actually starting to feel like fall outside, which amplifies the spookiness of our movies. Mikey chooses the movie, telling me that there’s a surprise in it just for me.
Shadow Puppets is rated R and is available on Amazon Prime. At the time of our viewing, it has the following online ratings:
Amazon 3.5/5 stars
Rotten Tomatoes critics unavailable, 22% audience
We watch the movie without interruption. We both take notes throughout the movie and send our chosen questions to one another via Google Docs afterward. Below, you can find his responses to my questions. He’s posting my responses to his questions here, on his website.
Solee: I know that James Marsters was one reason you picked this movie. Thank you for that. Were there other things that drew you to it?
Mikey: Well, I’m a sucker for “eight strangers with no memories find themselves…” which is the opening line for the synopsis of probably 10+ movies I’ve seen (okay, maybe they don’t all have eight, but it’s pretty close every time!). I knew there would be a mystery here. I was moving on to look at the next option when I saw James Marsters though, and I knew that’d score me points with my wife!
Solee: It did, indeed! Imagine that you’ve just woken up in a padded cell in nothing but your underwear. What would you do first? What would you think had happened?
Mikey: Look for pants! After that… I would definitely search all the walls and doors for any sign of a way out, then I’d start yelling for help. Pretty close to what these guys did.
I think if this really happened to me, my assumption would probably be that I am a crazy person who is in an asylum and I’ve blocked out my own memories for some reason. I’d really start to worry when I got no response from the outside though…
Solee: Me, too. I believe Shadow Puppets would be called a “locked room” movie. What do you like/dislike about that particular sub-genre of horror?
Mikey: This is near the top of “my kind of movie”. My favorite thing is a totally implausible situation, that makes no sense at first, and throughout the movie you learn bits and pieces until it all comes together and makes perfect sense at the end (hopefully changing how you view the scenes you saw earlier as well, a la The Sixth Sense – the clues are always there, and once you know the truth you can spot them).
My brain loves puzzles and figuring things out. Movies are great for that because you don’t actually have to go through any effort – the movie eventually spoils itself to you (unless it’s The Dead Room, which just didn’t bother to explain), so you get the brain-tingle of trying to figure things out, knowing all along it’s going to tell you the answers in the end.
Solee: This movie contained the first instance of “monster cam” we’ve come across this season. What are your thoughts on this style?
Mikey: You know, if I must be honest about what actually makes a movie good, a monster-cam is a horrible idea. It’s ridiculous and stupid. But it’s so fun to see one and recognize it. It’s part of the Repertoire of Cheese from which Sam Raimi drinks prolifically.
Solee: Speaking of cheese, let’s say you find a naked woman swimming in the pool in the middle of a scary building you seem to be trapped within. What’s the best pick-up line for the situation?
Mikey: “Hey baby, you want some Chip with that dip?” – of course, it doesn’t work unless you’re named Chip, but if you’ve lost your memory, who’s to say you’re not Chip? Besides, if you use that line, you are definitely the kind of guy who’d be named Chip.
Solee: That’s horrible! You’re lucky you’ve got me. It’s time for the HALF-TIME ANALYSIS: Do you feel like you understand what’s happening at this point? Do you feel like you know where the movie is going? If so, how confident are you in your predictions?
Mikey: This movie stayed very opaque by the halfway point. This was the first real solid mystery we watched. What I am assuming is that there is no human badguy, but rather a bunch of hapless scientists who accidentally created a shadow monster, and lost their memories in the process, and of course our apparent ‘prisoners’ are actually the scientists without their memories.
I’m not particularly confident about that, as this is a pretty veiled situation still. Everything is up in the air!
Solee: We’ll check back at the end of the interview to see how well you did with your perspectives. In the meantime, I want to talk about one of the biggest problems I have with the horror genre in general – they get very “trope-y”. In your opinion, how badly did this movie fall into that particular trap?
Mikey: Amnesia is certainly a heavily used trope, but I like it because it opens the door for a whole world of potential plots that are simply impossible without it. “Scientists have gone too far and unleashed evil” is also a trope, and a silly one. There’s definitely also something to be said about how many times we have to see someone onscreen cowering in the dark afraid of what’s around the corner. When you think of things like the montage of “bus hits person from offscreen”, imagine if you tried to make a montage of every time in movies someone was scared of what was behind a door and reached up slowly to open it? There would literally be tens (hundreds?) of thousands of clips in that montage. It gets old, but I guess it works – it’s a tense situation we can all relate to.
This movie was certainly full of tropes! But it did have a pretty original premise, and that’s my real interest in horror (and moreso sci-fi): I want to see the unique ideas the writer has come up with.
Solee: I feel like this is a much better movie than the previous two. For one thing, I definitely value an interesting plot over pretty much anything else. What do you think is most important: plot, special effects or gore?
Mikey: I think plot is the most important. The plot in this movie seemed very interesting until we started to get the explanation… then it turned out it was just some really absurd new agey nonsense!
Solee: Characters are also important. We have the Smart Girl Next Door, the Handsome Average Joe, the Nerdy Guy, the Mean Girl, the Nympho, the Angry Black Guy, the Street Smart Black Guy, and the Doomed Girl. Which was your favorite character? Why? What horror film stereotype would you be if your life were a scary movie? Why?
Mikey: Well, obviously I’m the computer nerd! The sad thing is that unlike a movie computer nerd, I can’t just hack into any system and dredge up all the relevant plot details with ten keystrokes.
Or maybe I’m the Mean Girl.
Solee: Don’t be silly. I’m the Mean Girl. Let’s get to the POST-GAME ANALYSIS:
What was the final body count?
Mikey: I believe the total was six, although the brain-dead guy is not going to last long without anybody feeding him.
Solee: Probably not. Were you scared at any point in the movie?
Mikey: Nope. This was a silly movie. I think the biggest fault with this movie lies with the director (though the writing was very bad too). There’s just something about the acting here that to me feels like a director who was telling people the wrong things to do.
Solee: What about your predictions? Where you right about any of them?
Mikey: I got a little bit right – the prisoners were (mostly) the staff that had created the monster. But there was also a human badguy, which my viewing cohort nailed correctly by the second scene of the movie!
Solee: Finally, how would you rate this movie? Who should watch this movie and in what context?
Mikey: I’m gonna have to give this one a 1.5/5. It was just so bad. Cheese poured all over it. It seemed like an interesting mystery, but the truth that got revealed (and the Badguy Monologue For No Reason that revealed it) was the kind of silly nonsense that you’d find in a Scooby Doo cartoon. And the acting was atrocious, although some of it was so unintentionally funny that I give some bonus points. I sat through the first half of the movie accepting the quality of the visuals and acting to get at the underlying mystery, but then the mystery got explained and made all that effort not worthwhile.
Still, I think you could have fun watching this movie, primarily for some of the last scenes of the Mean Girl. The things she does are so cartoonish and odd that it’s definitely laugh-out-loud material. I think my biggest challenge with this movie is I went in expecting something greater. Had I been planning for a Bruce Campbell style Sci-Fi Original Film, I would’ve been right in the mindset I needed.
Solee: I thought you were ALWAYS planning for a Bruce Campbell style Sci-Fi Original Film! Thanks for chatting. Tomorrow, we’ll be watching The Invitation. It has a significantly higher rating on IMDB, so I’m looking forward to it.