Writer-director David Benullo’s short film “Shadow Man” starts with elementary aged Kevin (Cody Arens) serving detention for his social studies teacher Ms. Mckenna (Meredith Monroe). After being there for probably an hour, Kevin’s teacher tells him he can go home. Before he leaves, she assures him that the Shadow Man is not real—he is something kids make up to scare each other.
Regarding the existence of benevolent and malevolent unseen forces, one must either see to believe or believe to see. Moreover, these entities thrive off of one’s faith and fear. Benullo’s film does not elucidate whether or not Kevin really believed in the Shadow Man prior to detention, but as the short reveals, Ms. McKenna’s comments offer ephemeral comfort and arouses the Shadow Man’s fury. If a supernatural force’s existence and strength is positively correlated to a person’s belief in it, any threat to that faith must be eradicated. The Shadow Man must make a believer out of Kevin.
Aside from the scene with Ms. McKenna and a brief moment in which a car drives by, “Shadow Man” is carried by Cody’s amazing performance, Albert Lloyd Olson’s atmospherically sinister violins, and the effectively unsettling cinematography and visual effects. Cody’s body language, line delivery, and facial expressions emanate from a boy who appears to be truly afraid of something.
“Shadow Man” is less than a quarter of an hour long but it generates as much suspense and anxiety as a feature length horror film would in ninety minutes. One wonders what Benullo could do with a bigger budget and sixty minutes more of running time.