Shadow Creature is a 1995 low-budget monster movie, hence the monster on the cover. The film was directed by James D. Gribbins, despite his having no prior directorial experience. He would have none afterwards either. He did, however, serve as a grip on some critically acclaimed films of the 1990s, such as Hoffa, Lorenzo’s Oil, and The Shawshank Redemption.
The film stars Shane Minor. While Minor may have been known as a winner of the Mr. USA competition, he’s probably better remembered for appearing in the pages of Playgirl magazine the year prior to this film’s release. While this may have helped him land the role in this film, the exposure (ahem) arguably didn’t help too much as he only starred in one other film. Minor is reportedly now a fitness trainer. He is not to be confused with the country music artist of the same name, not that anyone knows that guy either.
Minor stars as “Det. Brighton”. I want to say that the character was also named “Shane”, but it’s not really relevant. As the film opens, Brighton and his partner have been dispatched to a residence for an emergency disturbance call. The detectives quickly discover the home is the site of a very recent murder. The victim is found torn to shreds and hanging from a tree. The viewer watches the creature swim away from the scene, so there is no waiting around to see the monster so prominently displayed on the cover.
The film’s opening theme sounded a little reminiscent of Richard Band’s work, particularly his score for Re-Animator. However, the film’s opening credits cite the score as being performed by Dave Kane’s Them Jazzbeards. I have no clue what a “jazzbeard” is, but I can only assume that it makes you look less pompous than a Van Dyke.
The film reopens to find Brighton going about his average day. This involves roughing up a low-level thug who has been shaking down local small business owners for “protection money”. Meanwhile, in another scene, a professor from the local college is in his lab talking with a student assistant about an experimental hair-growth formula that they have been working on. The assistant is unable to show the professor much in the line of positive results, but he does show off a weapon called a “RBTG” (Really. Big. Taser. Gun.) that he has built as a science project for another course.
With the lack of any positive results, the professor is being ridden hard by the formula’s sole investor, the town’s unabashedly corrupt Mayor (Anthony Chrysostom, who is also credited as “the judge” in the courtroom scene from The Boondock Saints). The Mayor, however, is more concerned about his own baldness than he is the money. Making matters worse for the professor, the murdered man is revealed to be his partner on the project. With the killer still on the loose, the police have ruled the man’s death as a boating accident.
Brighton heads to the college to speak with the professor. However, he is initially met by the professor’s young female “associate”, Jacky (Tracy Godard, in her only role). While Minor may not remember her, she assures him they have met before…. and she doesn’t seem particularly happy about that fact. Coincidentally, the professor was Brighton’s professor during his own college days, and may have been one of the Professor’s prized students. Despite this being a creature feature, Brighton’s college education may be the most far-fetched aspect of the film.
The creature frequently reappears to kill off a few nonessential characters, most of whom are introduced only to be killed off seconds later in moderately gruesome fashion. Resembling a bastard “love child” of DC Comics’ “Etrigan the Demon” and The Hideous Sun Demon, the prosthetics and make-up aren’t particularly “wow”-inducing, but still look neat and get the job done.
Somewhere around the 30-minute mark, a flashback is almost randomly thrown in to provide the Shadow Creature‘s origin. I won’t completely spoil it (not that plot is essential to this film), but it’s basically a horror-version of how Peter Parker got his Spidey-Powers, only substituting bait mussels for a spider.
As you’ve hopefully determined by now, Shadow Creature is just as much a comedy as it is a horror movie, although the film may have worked just as well without the humor. Most of the performances are overly hammy, as they are intended to be. Minor, while not exactly a master thespian, appears to be having fun with the role, making it easier for the audience to have fun along with him.
As mentioned earlier, there is a decent amount of gore. Eyes are bitten out, skulls are crushed, and intestines chewed on. However, there tends to be a comedic aspect to each of these scenes. This includes Brighton’s vomiting at the discovery of each mutilated body, a victim’s overly emphatic death shrieks, and Brighton and Jacky essentially allowing a minor character to bleed to death by not getting them immediate help.
Shadow Creature is the type of film that requires you to turn your brain off in order to properly enjoy it. It moves at a solid pace, features an adequate dose of blood and guts, and provides a few chuckles. Not all the jokes hit and the creature effects could have used more of a budget, but overall, the film deserves to be much better known than it is. A lack of US DVD release surely hasn’t helped the film escape the grips of obscurity, but as lesser remembered (and lesser quality) horror films have recently received successful blu-ray releases, maybe the fates will soon change for Shadow Creature as well.
Want to watch the movie for yourselves? Well, here you go!