SLAMDANCE FILM FESTIVAL 2024 REVIEW! If you are looking for that rare horror that makes you think as hard as you scream, please seek out the captivating, chilling short Shadow, written and directed by Kamell Allaway. Little Elsie (Valentina Gordon) stares out the window at the falling snow in a shack in the hills. Her mother, Ahtna (Katy Wright-Mead), walks in from the cold, exhausted. She pulls a key from her pocket and walks to a locked cabinet.
Elsie wants to play and distracts her mother with hide and seek. While Elsie watches her mother from under the bed trying to find her, she notices her mother’s shadow remains by the doorway. But then Ahtna finds her, and Elsie gets back to playing. While playing, Ahtna hurts Elsie by accident. Horrified, she locks Elsie in her room and runs to the cabinet with her key. Elsie hears all sorts of horrible sounds behind the locked door. When things get too quiet, she slams into the door until it opens. She sees Ahtna face down on the floor in a pool of vomit. Behind Ahtna’s prone body is Ahtna’s shadow, standing tall. It starts creeping in Elsie’s direction, floating along the wall closer and closer to her…
“Horrified, she locks Elsie in her room and runs to the cabinet with her key.”
Allaway’s first successful step is shooting Shadow on gorgeous black and white film with director of photography Jonathan Pope. The results create a monochrome spectrum that ranges from stark to otherworldly. The impoverished shack interiors by production designer Robert Brecko look just like they could have jumped out of a Shelby Lee Adams exhibit. So much of the poverty and neglect concerns are instantly made apparent.
Of course, it’s all about that shadow business, Allaway’s next step in the right direction. The eeriness achieved by shadows detaching themselves and coming after you is of the highest caliber, sure to strip your nerves to the wires. But Allaway doesn’t stop there. This horror short has ambition and takes us to an extraordinary place in the second half of its 12-minute run. It is not just intriguing. It adds some weighty themes with crazy expressionistic visuals to illustrate them. It is not just dark; it is also deep, and that is delicious. It is a surefire for horror fans, but I also want those heavy into the art scene to check in on this as well. Allaway is already impressed with Shadow, and I think bigger, darker, and deeper works are ahead.
Shadow screened at the 2024 Slamdance Film Festival.
"…sure to strip your nerves to the wires."