Most independent, super low budget films tend to be in the horror genre, with their built in audiences more amenable to such fare, and forgiving of its shortcomings. Shroud is no exception to this, with the addition of an old west motif to the proceedings.
Victoria Celestine (Nicole Leigh) is a young Dutch woman who has lost her husband Jonathan (Tyler Mason). Jonathan had gone to America in his work for the shadowy Nine Sabers Authority, a secret society which travels the globe fighting evil. When Victoria reads a letter from Jonathan to her father, who has died, asking for his help, she resolves to travel to the U.S. to aid her husband herself, taking along her young brother Abraham (Dylan Barth).
Their search takes them to the tiny, out of the way town of Shroud, Arizona, so small and insignificant that it's not even on the map. The town is mostly depopulated, all of the children having died (supposedly) of small pox, and most of the businesses closed down. In spite of her cold reception at the hands of the irreligious locals, Victoria secures a room at the hotel and saloon, and begins the search for her husband. She doesn't find him, but she does meet the mayor, the lugubrious and creepy Mr. Undercroft (Russell Reynolds) and his wife Elizabeth (Morgana Shaw). She also meets the craven Aaron (Steve Uzzell), who is friendlier and more helpful than the rest of the townsfolk, but weak and cowardly.
With Aaron's help, Victoria and Abraham delve deeper into the mysterious disappearance of Jonathan, finding his journal, and even a cache of Coronado's treasure that he had discovered. Dark forces are at work, and wickedness is afoot, and it's an even chance that Victoria will have to confront this evil before she can discover the truth.
A nice thing about Shroud, which is also something of a weakness, is that it's not content to tread the same old path as most horror films, even the few that venture into the western subgenre, such as The Burrowers and Dead Birds. Shroud wants to think more about the philosophical underpinnings of the whole endeavor. There's a lot going on under the surface, some of which is clear, and some not. While this lends a sense of weight to the proceedings, it can also slow things down, and tend toward a bit too much airy persiflage. This doesn't stop the filmmakers from throwing around lines like "Ever read the Book of Revelations? It goes something like this." This is stated by Victoria just before shooting someone.
There's plenty of violence, but the gore and blood are understated and subdued. There are a few cheesy CG effects, but for the most part it's practical stuff, and of above average quality. The film aims more for a sense of unreality and general creepiness than real tension or thrills, and for the most part it succeeds. The camera work is proficient, and the performances are generally above average, with Nicole Leigh being the standout. The ultra-crisp HD look somewhat undercuts the western vibe, as audiences expect more warmth in historical pieces (this reviewer included), but it looks nice for what it is, and the sets, whether built or found, look authentic and lived in.
Shroud isn't outstanding, but for a low budget venture, it's pretty good, and the final twist elicits a chuckle. Recommended.
The video is 1.78:1 widescreen, and looks quite good. The image is crisp (one could argue too crisp), the colors are bright, and the wide open landscapes featured are presented well. There is a touch of murk at times, but this is fleeting.
Audio is available in Dolby digital 2 channel and 5.1 channel, and generally sounds good. The music is encompassing and the viewer can really feel it swell when called for. The dialogue is always clearly audible, and no hiss or other problem can be heard. English subtitles are included, and there are a couple of minor subtitling errors. No alternate language track is included.
The only extra included is a behind the scenes photo gallery, lasting a bit over five minutes. It's mildly interesting.
Shroud isn't your normal fare, even in the horror genre. It creates and maintains an ethereal atmosphere and piques the viewer's curiosity as to what will happen. It's a thoughtful film, and will probably disappoint those seeking either slam bang action or a blood soaked gore fest. But it has its own charms, and is definitely worth a watch.