US 2004, 97m, Deco Filmworks
DVD: Anchor Bay (UK) - Cert 18
It's one year since a girl disappeared in the woods, presumed murdered. On the anniversary, a naked teenage boy covered in blood arrives at the local police station. The Sheriff, who has never forgiven himself for the girl's fate, tries to determine the boy's identity. A fingerprint test reveals a surprising match on the police database, and before long the Sheriff is forced to confront some personal demons. As the local death toll begins to rise, it seems he isn't the only one whose past is coming back to confront him...
For me, Shallow Ground turned out to be one of those very pleasant surprises, a film I had somehow missed on its original release, only to catch it years later and find something of a hidden gem. It's not earth-shatteringly original, and yet has elements which are strikingly fresh, along with a visually arresting style. Some tense sequences in the woods have the comforting feel of an old-school stalk-and-slash flick, whilst throwing some intriguing ideas into the mix.
That brings me to the film's flaws. It does get a tad confusing at times, and yes, there are holes in the plot - it simply tries to pack too much into the running time. Frustratingly, some intriguing story strands are touched upon, but then get cut short before they have a chance to develop. Still, the whole thing moves so nimbly that director Sheldon Wilson just about manages to keep it on the rails.
That is Shallow Ground's real trump card - it gets by on sheer energy, hitting the ground running and never letting up. Genuinely creepy at times, with plenty of well staged set pieces, most importantly it's a rollicking good ride. Despite its imperfections, this is one I will definitely come back to.