Director Sheldon Wilson's debut with Shallow Ground was a complete success at England's 2004 Dead By Dawn Film Festival, taking in the Best Picture Audience Award. Working off of a late June release here in the U.S., there hasn't been much buzz around the indie feature, but we all know... that's the way the Dead likes it.
Comprised of some of the most harrowing and disturbing imagery, a truly magnificent score and the best acting I have seen to date for a low budget feature, Shallow Ground can be called nothing less than a great success. From the opening shot of a bloodied teenage boy stomping through the forest to the mid-movie torture scenes (I can't reveal the end!), the film captivates the audience with intense audio/video sequences consistently. The only gripe that arose from the film's initial viewing was that the story becomes a little too complex and bewildering for the average viewer, a mistake that Wilson will hopefully correct for his next full length feature.
As mentioned earlier, a bloody teenage boy suddenly appears at the Sheriff's station of a near desolate town. Panicked by his arrival, the two deputies left on the job call the troubled Sheriff, who is enraptured in a nightmare about his girlfriend being captured and murdered. You see, exactly one year ago that same area suffered a great deal of disappearances and murders, Sheriff Jack Shepherd's girlfriend being one of the victims. Now piqued by the mysterious arrival of the boy, Jack heads to the station to encounter not only his dark past, but those of the tight knit townsfolk that he's grown close to.
Shallow Ground is relentless when it comes to spilling blood from every orifice and providing the audience with jaw dropping FX work. Let it be known that the opening credits sequence and the ending are two pieces of work that could put to shame what some Hollywood FX studios offer up for "blockbuster" theatrical releases. Hats off to Patrick Magee and the rest of the Special FX crew involved.
But Shallow Ground is not without its flaws. The difficulty in Wilson's story begins when sub-plots begin popping up to confuse the audience and offer more depth to the serial killer story line. However, the brilliant idea of "the dead taking revenge" angle is never fully explained, and comes off as one of those "Why didn't you just stop with ..." instances. You see where Wilson is going with the story, but yet he never really gets there. Rather, the element of post-mortem revenge is thrown in the viewer's lap and left to figure out like a blind man with a Rubik’s Cube.
The DVD is a bit shy with the special features, offering up only a director's commentary and neat little "behind the scenes" featurette. Again, Independent filmmakers, I must stress how important it is to carry the camera around wherever you go so the audience can get more bang for their buck when the disc is released! For example, look at the $1 million budgeted Cabin Fever, and how well it did with its special features.
Overall, Shallow Ground's impressive concerto of violence and disturbing imagery serves up a healthy dose of "Suck on this!" for those tired of the PG-13 Ghost flicks. Personally, I needed a break from dripping water, dead kids and shite CG work. Shallow Ground not only gave me my fix, but has me craving more from the mind of Sheldon Wilson.