Director Dee McLachlan’s OUT OF THE SHADOWS is a rural supernatural horror flick that starts out extra grisly. Dead children, babies cut out of pregnant stomachs, blood, guts, and terrifyingly thick Aussie accents. Oh, the accents! The horror! The horror!
Detective Eric (Blake Northfield) and his pregnant wife Katrina Hughes (Kendal Rae) are moving into an abandoned midwifery in the Australian countryside, and almost on cue, there’s a creepy figure dressed in black watching them intently in the distance. Turns out those fetus-chopping, child-killing crimes Eric was investigating are linked to the history of the old midwifery, and things start turning supernatural with Katrina as the target.
Katrina is whisked off to the psychiatrist for a dose of classic “hysterical woman” drugs that are traditionally prescribed in cinematic situations like these, but she refuses to take them, much to the displeasure of Eric. Terror ratchets up progressively, with more ghostly happenings interrupting their would-be perfect lives until Katrina reaches breaking point. She goes looking for answers, and confronts the “shadow people” with the help of demonologist Linda (Lisa Chappell).
Seances and exorcisms ensue.
OUT OF THE SHADOWS is massively melodramatic, with hamfisted foreshadowing, cackling bad guys, ghostly nurses, and disembodied voices that sound suspiciously like Daleks short of chanting “Exterminate, exterminate!” String music swells to accompany drone footage of breathtaking Australian landscapes – which is all well and good – but the pace is constantly slowed by the overabundance of establishing shots. While it’s clear they’re meant to build atmosphere and dread, they start repeating to the point of annoyance.
And that’s not the only problematic repetition here – it’s hard to find anything fresh in OUT OF THE SHADOWS. These kinds of productions have become enormously popular with low budget filmmakers because there’s no need for expensive monster effects or elaborate location shoots; all you need is someone’s house, a few shadows and loud, obnoxious sound effects to wake the audience from their stupor. The genre holds an irresistible allure for any appropriately miserly indie movie producer who wants the biggest result for the smallest spill of the wallet.
Some of the cinematography in OUT OF THE SHADOWS is laudable, but the effect is undermined by an overall cheap digital malaise. The dramatic music cues never quite match the onscreen mood, and the sound design is decidedly low-fi. Much like my house where ageing electrical appliances are constantly on the fritz, nothing quite works the way it should.
As far as performances go, Rae puts heart into her role as “supernaturally tormented woman” despite being saddled with an inexplicable fake American accent. I’m not sure why she needed to be American. Were they hoping it would be easier to sell to an international audience that way? I’m not convinced it’ll help.
Leading man Blake Northfield never quite gets his hooks in as a supposedly hard boiled detective working jaw droppingly horrific murder cases. The rest of the cast is adequate, but everyone is let down by the ultimate reveal of the film’s central evil which is nothing short of underwhelming and laughable.
Director McLachlan is hoping to ride on the current trend of successful, low-budget supernatural chillers at the US box office but doesn’t bring enough new to the table and lacks the production value to compete with his international peers. OUT OF THE SHADOWS is impressive as a resume piece but will struggle to keep the attention of anyone but the most patient of horror buffs. OUT OF THE SHADOWS is now available to watch on VOD.