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By Mike Watt | November 7, 2005

The spell binding a fallen angel named Malphaedor has failed, and it’s up to a quartet of “Shadowhunters” to vanquish him for good. The creature’s evil is bound inside a decaying, abandoned hospital—which just happens to be the site of an all-night sorority initiation. And the football team’s worth of girls in their underwear provides Malphaedor with plenty of victims. Can the Shadowhunters save the day?

“John Johnson’s Shadowhunters” is a fun, fast-paced and unique horror/action movie. Director and co-screenwriter (with Lilley and Smith) Johnson subverts audience expectations by first setting up all the elements of a typical slasher—scantily-clad girls, abandoned building, vicious body-switching demon—and then adds in bizarre little touches to keep the viewer guessing, particularly the four fedora-wearing heroes who come in with pistols and swords, like a cross between “The Hat Squad” and “Ghostbusters”.

The acting is surprisingly good, with Johnson himself giving the best performance as the cynical Hudson (Smith runs a close second as “Ray” the empath of the group). Very few of the girls have much to do beyond providing eye-candy (and the requisite nudity), so the performances here aren’t quite as demanding. Producer Moore, playing a secretive Wiccan, starts off a little stiff (and undoubtedly cold) but gets better (and more relaxed) as the movie goes along and provides an interesting last-act twist that would almost feel like cheating if it wasn’t thematically logical.

Most of the actors, particularly those possessed by Malphaedor, seem to be having a blast throughout, and are convincingly frightened when called upon to be. And the Shadowhunters themselves are quite adept in delivering the action (a few clumsy sequences and overt pistol-twirling aside) and the gore.

“Shadowhunters” has a smart script and a good pace that rarely lags. Unfortunately, it’s not getting the distribution it deserves, so it might be a little hard to find. However, it is well worth the search.

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