By Andrew Buckner
Rating: ****1/2 out of *****.
Director Aditya Vishwanath has crafted an unusually successful blend of love spectacle and haunted house narrative with his ingenious feature-length debut, Shadows Fall (2016). Co-written by Raj Jawa and Kuber Kaushik, the ninety minute production takes inspiration from Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897). It also aligns itself to the works of David Lynch. Vishwanath makes these encouragements continuously apparent. This is with a focus on the themes of marriage, life after death and good in the sway of evil. These were among the focal points of Stoker’s classic text. Vishwanath’s bold, immersive and stylish approach, along with the Jawa and Kaushik’s manner of storytelling, erect an always striking Lynchian parallel. It is one which makes the material jump off the screen. These constituents demand our attention through the duration. What is most stunning is that, while the respect and knowledge of Stoker and Lynch is perceptible, the outcome never comes off as pure imitation. Vishwanath gives us a truly haunting, memorable saga. The Garaj Pictures production can be seen as a far more mature version of what Hollywood often tries to recreate from young adult novels. This is on vastly expanded budgets. The results have only accrued increasing failure and box-office fatigue. But, Vishwanath excels where these exertions fail. This is because the essence of his yarn never feels artificial or pre-calculated. It also genuinely cares for the plight and circumstances of its protagonist.
Likewise, Vishwanath grips his addressees straightaway. This is via his daring, incredibly bravura direction. Such occurs with a brilliant opening five and a half minutes sequence. This segment fuses a sophisticated commencing credit bit with the voices of the two leads, Senka (Dylan Quigg) and Jonas (Jener Dasilva). They offer engaging exposition into their private lives. We ultimately learn of how the two met and the various stages of their relationship. Yet, the truly extraordinary item is that the bit is cut as if the duo are having a nostalgia permeated conversation with one another. This is as images of Senka and Amis in their younger days resonate before our eyes. Such transpires to remarkable significance. It also immediately sets an inventive, ardent air. This is one that showcases a deft balance between the heart-stirring and the heart rendering. Such endures as stalwart once the supernatural terror sections are put into place. This ensues promptly.
Vishwanath tale is led by Senka. She makes a deal with the demon, Amis (in a depiction by Christian Wennberg that efficiently drips with wicked charisma). This is to have some more time with her deceased husband. True to the tradition of similar tales, there is unforeseen consequences. Such finds Senka imprisoned in her home. What is all the more terrifying is that she seems to be caught in a torturous state. This is a purgatory where her most treasured instances with Jonas are measured with the sheer wickedness that Senka willingly welcomed into her life. Worst of all: Jonas appears to be someone completely different from the attentive individual Senka once knew him to be. Ultimately, Senka realizes that the only manner to find out what is going on with Jonas is to further communicate with the fiendish Amis.
It is a gripping, if at its core occasionally familiar, account. The dialogue is a mixture of the mundane and the poetic. To its fault, it is occasionally melodramatic. Regardless, it commonly flourishes as a modernized extension of its motivations. Vishwanath keeps the pace quick. The mood remains intense and captivating. This is without feeling rushed. Moreover, it is never as if the auteurs are ignoring character development to do so. As a matter of fact, such progress is satisfactorily, credibly mixed into the proceedings. The atmosphere is unwavering. This is even in the more theatrical stretches of the chronicle. Such creates a visually and audibly pleasing script. It is one that is made all the more impressive with its incorporation of several unexpected and enthralling twists. This is despite the fact that it is plagued by a generally routine arc.
The affair is heightened by commanding, alternately vulnerable and fear-inducing performances from Quigg and Dasilva. Additionally, Kinsey Diment as the upbeat, yet intrusive neighbor, Rain, and Talmage Tidwell as her spouse, Wilhelm, offer likable presentations. Marc Carlis as Samuel Collins, Jawa as Doctor and Christopher Gay as Preacher all fare just as wonderfully. Elliott Goldkind provides impassioned, pulse-pounding music. It fits the ambiance well. Vishwanath’s editing is superb. The black and white and color cinematography from Artiom Maskimov is dazzling and gorgeous. Leon Klima’s make-up and Clara Soler’s art category contribution are just as fantastic. Yet, the special effects from Neha Kandpal and the optical component of this arena from Sujeen Nepali and Saurabh Tripathi are infrequently cartoonish. But, they still do little to take spectators out of the immersive experience Vishwanath instills in each frame. Much of this aspect is saved by the pure creation in many of its jolts. A happenstance at sixteen minutes in, involving a single knife in a butcher block spontaneously shifting places, is especially smirk-inducing. An earlier engrossment showcases the coffee in a bulky cup slowly moving by itself. It rises up and crashes onto the table it is sitting upon. From herein, mysterious shapes seem drawn by invisible hands in the fallen liquid. Such flashes, prevalent in the first forty minutes, make the aforementioned detraction petty and easily forgivable in comparison.
“Life can go in many directions. You just have to be sure of the path.” Rain declares this at about the midway point of Vishwanath’s cinematic undertaking. This becomes a thesis proclamation, the cornerstone of the movie articulated. The solid, if a shade predictable, climax re-iterates this spectacularly. We unveil it through the smartly realized and penned classifications pulsating throughout the body of the opus. It adds fresh layers of depth. This is to a fiction that, aside from its previously identified muses, also seems to be also akin to Jerry Zuker’s comically overblown Ghost (1990) as told by Clive Barker. Such assists in the fashioning of a beautifully honed, multi-dimensional marvel. Vishwanath has given his audience a chronicle that mechanizes equally as both drama and an unnerving display of trepidation. Filmed in a mere fifteen days in Los Angeles, California, the exhibition is consistently meditative and alluring. Such is in the manner of the greatest independent photoplays. Vishwanath has provided a grand display of talent. It is one that is both an artistic tour de force and an all- around fascinating endeavor. Various photographic exertions claim to “have a bit of something for everyone”. Shadows Fall is one of the rare entities that lives up to this all inclusive promise. It also executes it with professionalism, skill, and grace. Such marks a mandatory, must-see masterpiece that both high-brow cinephiles and general observers can looking for escapist entertainment can correspondingly delight in.