Everyone in Shadow Falls is looking for something . . . or . . . something is looking for them.
Shadow Falls was a series of brief short films - interconnected by location and shots of mysterious characters - intended for the Internet but picked up by the Horror Channel. Its filmmakers, Kendal Sinn and Sally Cummings, admit to being relative novices and in the extra features on this DVD, Sinn even states that "Shadow Falls was created basically as a way to learn how to make movies better" for himself. The basic premise behind Shadow Falls is that it is the name of a town which was mysteriously vacated a couple decades ago. It's now a haven for the dead and those who are looking for them.
The first short, Jabberwocky, focuses on a young girl who sits alone in a schoolhouse and recites Lewis Carroll's classic poem from memory for her teacher. Random shots from future installments are spliced in during her recital. As a reward for completing the poem, the teacher opens a drawer in her desk, pulls out a severed human hand, and gives it to her pupil, who proceeds to eat it. The end.
That's about what you can expect from these shorts: incomplete narratives and creepy footage. Stephen King would probably call them "snapshots" and that's what these eight short shorts are (or, at least, it would probably be best to view them as such): momentary snapshots of fear. The locations are all in Kansas, giving this a creepy Midwest feel that's authentic. The audio and video quality is substandard and the acting varies from respectable to god-awful. Still, I found myself entertained by the short films and by the generous supplemental material provided on the disc. I'd suggest renting it, if you're into amateur yet well-intentioned filmmaking.
Here's a quick rundown on the other 7 shorts. Dead to Me has a former resident of Shadow Falls talk about his dead wife and kids while being interviewed by someone off camera who sounds more like a used car dealer than an investigator. The Man from Lod has four annoying teenagers in a car that breaks down beside a road sign for Shadow Falls. They're then attacked by, well, someone or something. Daddy follows an elderly man looking for his teenaged daughter, who disappeared in Shadow Falls twenty years ago. Crazy Joe's Haunted Videotape has two more annoying teens at a junk store who watch a videotape message from a resident of Shadow Falls. My Pixie Valentine finds a young woman who goes to Shadow Falls after receiving a letter from an ex-lover; unfortunately, someone else is waiting for her there. Nurse Lemming's Responsibility has a nurse procure a key marked 206 from a garage sale and then return to Shadow Falls. Finally, there's The Funny Scream of Nurse Karen, which has Nurse Karen bound to a chair and menaced by a crazy doctor.
Well, the source video quality of these films is not great - so don't expect Shadow Falls to demonstrate the vivid image quality of your new HD TV. Details are extremely lacking. Elite Entertainment does provide an anamorphic widescreen presentation, though, and this probably looks about as good as a shot-for-the-Internet series is going to look.
As with the image, the sound quality of Shadow Falls reflects the limitations of what equipment the filmmakers had to work with. Dialogue is sometimes unclear - especially in outdoors scenes. The score, while professional-sounding, often dominates scenes rather than subtly enhancing them.
The sole audio track is Dolby Digital 2.0. Neither foreign language tracks nor subtitles are provided.
Novice filmmakers Kendal Sinn and Sally Cummings provide audio commentary on all 8 shorts. They are quite enthusiastic in their observations about their work.
Endings, Beginning and Clues: Interviews with the Creators of Shadow Falls has Sinn and Cummings discuss the genesis of Shadow Falls. This runs about 10 minutes.
A Tour Through Shadow Falls: A Tour Through the Towns that Make Shadow Falls with Kendal Sinn and Sally Cummings serves as a travelogue through the different Kansas locations Sinn and Cummings shot in. This was surprisingly interesting and illuminates quite a bit about what they were attempting. This feature runs for nearly half an hour.
From Day One: Early Trailers and Production Stills with Commentary by Kendal Sinn is pretty much exactly as described. This runs for about 33 minutes.
Cast Interviews has comments from a number of the actors who appeared in the series. This runs about 13 minutes.
There's also a My Pixie Valentine Alternate Chase Scene, a My Pixie Valentine Early Rough Edit, Three Horror Channel Commercials Directed by Kendal Sinn, and a Shadow Falls Volume Two Promo.
Considering the extras far exceed the total running length of the short films themselves, Elite Entertainment is to be commended for putting this DVD together.
According to the filmmakers, Shadow Falls was intended to be a 36 (or 32 or 38 - the number seems to change during the filmmakers' comments) episode series. Volume 1 collects the first eight, and as such, seems woefully incomplete as a viewing experience. The unpaid actors and the video / audio quality are substandard, but even so, the episodes hold a certain interest. I liked seeing something filmed in America's heartland for a change, no matter its budget. Ultimately, I'd say Rent It if you're interested in ultra-low budget horror filmmaking.