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Written and directed by Susan Shadburne, 1986's Shadow Play tells the story of a woman named Morgan Hanna (Dee Wallace-Stone). She makes her living, quite successfully, as a playwright but still misses the fiancé, Jeremy Crown (Barry Laws), she lost to an alleged suicide attempt when he fell from the top of a lighthouse some years back. She dreams about him constantly, reliving his death night after night. Understandably, she's in a bit of a funk and with that comes some writers block, which is obviously a big detriment to her career.
When she gets a letter from her late fiancé's mother, Millie (Cloris Leachman), a widow herself, inviting her to come and visit her on the very same island where her late, lamented men died, she accepts the offer. Shortly after her arrival, she meets hunky John (Ron Kuhlman), the brother of the dearly departed. She also catches up with Zelda (Susan Dixon), an old friend of hers from way back. Somewhat predictably, Morgan gets a bit inspired by her new surroundings and the rash of company that comes with them, and she decides it's high time that she get to work on a new play, one in which she'll use her experiences with grief to create a masterpiece. But as she spends more and more time with these people, things become increasingly odd. It all starts when she sees Jeremy. She talks to John about it but, of course, he assures her that she must be imagining things, yet these sightings persist. And then she starts hearing a voice, one that just might belong to the ghost of the man she once loved so dearly.
Shadow Play is riddled with clichés. From the piano-heavy score meant to immediately tug at our heart strings to the soft focus cinematography used to set the romantic mood right down to the plot twists, we've seen much of this done before. Originality isn't a strong point in this film, it all feels very familiar. Yet the movie manages to prove pretty entertaining for a few reasons, not the least of which is Dee Wallace-Stone's performance. Not only does she have the perfect look for her role but she throws herself into it and delivers some pretty convincing work. The rest of the cast isn't quite as good, but Leachman is weird enough to work here, but at least our female lead is up to the task.
The movie also has a legitimately odd vibe to it. The box copy refers to the film as ‘an erotic supernatural thriller' and that's maybe overselling it a bit. There's certainly a supernatural aspect to it and the film has a few sex scenes in it but the thriller aspect of the story is a bit underplayed here. It isn't all that suspenseful. Where it's interestingly weird is in how it does a genuinely good job of tying the play that Morgan is writing into the ‘real-world' experiences that she is going through almost as it happens. Morgan's writing is super melodramatic and very much over the top, but there's some genuine creativity on display here in that way that Susan Shadburne relates this side of the story to the audience and that makes the second half of the film quite a bit more interesting than you might expect it to be, given the pedestrian nature of the setup.
Shadow Play comes back to Blu-ray from Scorpion Releasing ‘from a new 2k scan of the original IP' in AVC encoded 1080p high definition framed at 1.78.1 widescreen. Generally speaking, it looks great. There's a lot of detail here, plenty of depth and texture throughout, and the color reproduction looks perfect, though it should be noted that a good portion of the film was clearly shot soft for artistic effect. Black levels are nice and deep and there are no problems with any noise reduction or edge enhancement. The strong bit rate ensures that there are no noticeable issues with any compression artifacts, and the image is quite clean, showing a natural amount of film grain but not much at all in the way of actual print damage. Excellent work.
The 16-bit English language DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track sounds just fine. The track is clean and properly balanced, providing clean and clear dialogue and nice depth to the score. There are no problems with any hiss or distortion, everything sounds quite good here. Subtitles are available in English only.
The main extra on the disc is a twenty-two-minute interview with actress Dee Wallace Stone who speaks about getting the part in the film, what it was like on set, her co-stars and her thoughts on the picture overall. Aside from that, we also get a trailer for the feature, a still gallery, menus and chapter selection.
Shadow Play is more interesting than its cliché-riddled plot initially lets on. It's no masterpiece, but it has its moments and features a good performance from Dee Wallace-Stone. Scorpion's Blu-ray looks and sounds quite good and the interview with the film's leading lady adds some value. Those who already know they like they movie will appreciate the upgrade and can consider it recommended, those new to the film might want to ‘rent it' first.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.