Shadows on the Wall (2015)

2004’s Primer launched an interesting sub-genre of SF films, featuring small teams of inventors developing some earth-shaking new invention in their garage (see my review of Love & Teleportation  for another example).

I have to admit, I’ve got a weakness for this sort of film, as they tend to emphasize story and ideas over flashy effects (which may or may not even show up!).

When I read the description of this film, I expected  something along the lines of Lovecraft’s classic story, “From Beyond.”

I was wrong.  Instead this one is quite different.

Palmer is a failing college student, obsessed with his love of creating new electronic devices.  He works on them constantly, taking notes for his latest project while he’s supposed to be studying.  Somehow he has managed to convince his cousin Chase and his math tutor Alice to help him with his latest project, a device which can communicate data without the use of a transmitter of any sort.

And a large part of the film is spent on the relationship between these three as they create the machine.  But even before their project starts to go wrong, we know that the easy going comedy won’t last:  After all, it opens with what happens two weeks later, when mysterious armed Federal agents raid their lab and find Palmer lying on the floor, dead or unconscious.

But the film manages to change gears with impressive ease, as the three first learn what their device can do – and its strange side effects – before things start going very wrong.

While it ultimately reaches some quite intense and frightening moments, it isn’t really what you’d call a horror film.  It is, however, a reasonably good  Independent film, with a strong emphasis on character and convincing performances.  It is also interesting to see a film in which one of the mysterious agents trying to keep their discovery secret at all costs actually gets a moment of true bravery.  Amazing.  Maybe they really are trying to keep all of us safe from the Apocalypse..

If you’re expecting millions of dollars in digital effects, this isn’t the film you’re looking for.  But if you want to find something a bit different from the bombastic excesses of the big budget SF offerings – or merely wish to avoid seeing people flying gracefully away unscathed on shock waves that should have killed them – then this one will be a welcome change.

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