Thursday, March 4, 2021

Movie Review: SHADOW IN THE CLOUD (2020)

Owing to COVID, most theaters are closed, the ones remaining aren't playing a lot of new movies, and a lot of movies that would otherwise have been released to theaters are getting sent to streaming. One such movie was the WWII horror film Shadow in the Cloud. The initial streaming price was $20, so I waited until the price dropped to $5.99 before I rented it. Here goes...

The Plot

It's 1943 in New Zealand and the war against Japan is full swing. Maude Garrett (Chloe Grace Moretz), a women's auxiliary carrying a mysterious package, unexpectedly boards an outbound bomber for Samoa. The all-male bomber crew are generally not pleased with her being there (and make this very obvious), but orders are orders. Relations between the crew and their new passenger continue to degrade, made worse by threats from Japanese raiders and a mysterious evil force menacing Garrett in the ball turret where the men have stashed her.

What exactly is going on? Stay tuned to find out...

The Good

*The movie is short and fast-moving. It don't think there's ever a moment where it's boring, which is more than I can say for a lot of movies.

*The movie has a pretty original concept. The only WWII horror film that's come out in recent years that I can think of is Overlord. And military folklore of the war was replete with gremlins as the cause of things going wrong, so as a period piece that kind of works. Furthermore, the Pacific Theater gets much less pop-culture attention than the European Theater and the contributions of non-American Allied nations like New Zealand even less, so remedying that is a good idea. And based on the credits sequence, the movie seemed like it was intended to pay tribute to the contribution of women to the Allied war effort. That's something else I can get behind.

*Moretz is a good actor who does a good job with her role, conveying Maude's physical prowess and the horrors of her back story and current situation. When she's alone in the ball turret there are some truly squick-inducing moments that she really sells.

*The film realistically depicts the arbitrary violence of war. One minute someone is talking and the next minute they're shredded.

The Bad

*For the first third of the movie, none of the characters are likeable. The men are largely misogynist jerks who treat Garrett with absolutely grotesque levels of sexualized disrespect and one is racist toward another crew member on top of that. Meanwhile, Garrett herself is a shriek who is clearly trying too hard. Captain America: The First Avenger handled it much better with Peggy Carter's remark about how she knows what it's like to "have every door shut in [her] face." Although to be fair I don't recall Carter ever facing the absolutely ridiculous degree of disrespect Garrett gets, she handled odious men much more competently.

*Garrett seems to be good at absolutely everything. As I mentioned earlier the film seems like it was intended as a tribute to the WWII women's auxiliaries and so she clearly has to be competent, but she overshadows the men a lot of the time. I could imagine her being very skilled at one or two things (i.e. a mechanic or a pilot who's had weapon/combat training), but everything? This goes overkill into "girl power" territory. I won't say "Mary Sue" because she's too flawed a personality and has too much horrible stuff happen to her to be a perfect self-insert who never suffers, but it's getting there.

*The male characters aren't well-developed. Obviously one can't do too much with a movie this short, but still. None of them have bad delivery and all seem to play their parts, but none of the characters or the actors who play them really stick out enough for me to comment on them.

*Although we meet a few of the individual crew early on, there's a scene where they introduce themselves one by one to Garrett over the radio (after they put her in the ball turret for takeoff) and they're depicted individually against a dark background in what seems like the introduction of game show contestants. That was kind of lame, plus it made it harder to keep track of who was who when, for most of the film, we hear rather than see them. It would have been better if the film had cut from Garrett in the ball turret to the men above passing the microphone around or started the movie by introducing the crew and then having Maude show up. And then there's a scene where the men are all fighting among themselves that's shot in almost freeze-frame sequence against black that could also be shot more conventionally.

*After the big reveal about Garrett's mysterious package, the plot takes a turn for the ridiculous. We're talking about "climbing around on the outside of an airplane in the middle of a dogfight" level of ridiculous. And then there's that ridiculous moment you probably saw in the trailer. No more discussion for reasons of spoilers.

*The ending has a last-minute scare sequence that gets into even more unsubtle "girl power" territory. I might've been more forgiving of the earlier stuff (maybe she's just a quick study and a good listener who's running on adrenaline) if it weren't for the very end.

The Verdict

I waited a month or two for the price to drop from the new-release price of $20 to $5.99. If you must see this, wait until the price drops further and in the meantime watch Overlord. Never boring and a good concept, but from halfway through the movie on an increasingly ridiculous execution. 6.0 out of 10, barely, and that's because it's exciting.

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