The vampire has been a staple of the horror genre from its inception. From Bela Lugosi to Christopher Lee and Gary Oldman, we’ve seen dozens of iterations of the ‘Prince of Darkness‘ himself, Dracula. Of course, this doesn’t include the hundreds of vampire flicks that diverged from Bram Stoker’s classic. As a result, there’s really not much left that can be done with the concept that hasn’t been done in the past. Enter the latest indie horror offering, The Shed. Decent production values and a clever premise hope to set The Shed apart from a coven of generic imitators.
After the death of his parents, high school student Stan lives a ekes out a sad existence with his abusive grandfather. Along with his best friend, Dommer, Stan navigates a world of bullies and unsympathetic adults while pining for his school crush, Roxy. But everything changes when Stan discovers a vampire hiding in his shed. Soon Stan realizes the monster is trapped by sunlight and hungry for blood. Now he has his own ‘pet monster’. But will Stan use the creature to lash out at his tormentors?
Visual Flair and Scares Aplenty in The Shed
From its opening scene, director Frank Sabatella sets The Shed apart from other indie horror. It’s a stylish, scary, and bloody prologue that sets the tone for the rest of the movie. As a filmmaker, Sabatella shows off quite a bit of style. It’s clearly an independent horror movie, but The Shed never looks low-budget. On the contrary, Sabatella uses some clever camera work to obscure any budgetary limitations while delivering several good jolts. We’ve seen lots of iterations of vampires over the years. For its trapped monster, The Shed opts to cast its vampire as a brutal predator. We’ve see this version in the past, but it’s a nice reminder that this horror movie monster can still be dangerous. Both the makeup and gore effects should also impress most horror fans.
The Shed Suffers from Some Convenient, Illogical Storytelling
At its best, The Shed is a tense, brutal vampire movie that maximizes its premise. But in between those moments, Sabatella, who also wrote the screenplay, occasionally lapses into some convenient, illogical storytelling. Some characters accept the movie’s rather exceptional circumstances a little too quickly. And it’s a little odd that a vampire capable of ripping off limbs can’t break out of rickety shed at night. Moreover, The Shed’s twist of bullied social outcasts leveraging their monster against their tormentors isn’t as well-developed as similarly themed movies. Last year’s Super Dark Times, for instance, more convincingly imbued their teens with the requisite angst necessary for a violent outburst.
There’s an understanding that what we don’t know is often much scarier.
In spite of some of these missteps, Sabatella avoids other lazy storytelling conventions. Specifically, The Shed sidesteps expository-laden dialogue and needless background into its monster. Sabatella teases the past death of Stan’s parents and his troubled background with a quick, effective nightmare scene and some subtle references. In addition, The Shed spares us any contrived explanations for its monster. Sabatella doesn’t let his movie get bogged down in unnecessary details. There’s an understanding that what we don’t know is often much scarier.
Broad, Occasionally Underwritten, Characterizations Saved by Winning Performances
Though The Shed has ambitions for deeper social commentary, Sabatella struggles to balance the gore with the rich characterizations needed to pull it off. A few characters – including Stan’s abusive grandfather and the town sheriff – feel like broadly written stereotypes. None of the high school bullies far much better. It doesn’t help that the actors seem to be performing in a different movie. Even Cody Kostro best friend character, Dommer, is more a collection of ideas than a fleshed out person.
Both Jay Jay Warren and newcomer Sofia Happonen turn in likable, emotional performances. It’s their quiet moments together onscreen that give The Shed an emotional core missing from similar movies.
Fortunately, The Shed’s principal actors deliver charismatic, convincing performances. While his character is underwritten, Kostro brings some dangerous energy to his disenfranchised teen character. Both Jay Jay Warren and newcomer Sofia Happonen turn in likable, emotional performances. It’s their quiet moments together onscreen that give The Shed an emotional core missing from similar movies. Regardless of some of the convenient plotting, by the movie’s climax, you find yourself rooting for these two characters.
The Shed Boasts Enough Style and Scares to Elevate It Above Most Indie Horror
No, The Shed doesn’t spin the vampire sub-genre on its head. Some of the characterizations are broad and, at times, familiar. And certain story beats exist to conveniently advance the blood and scares. But these are minor quibbles. Overall, The Shed is a stylish, scary, and fun horror movie that also happens to boast touching performances for its principal actors. As 2019 hits its final strides, horror fans have …
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