Night Shadows [Mutant] (1984)

John ‘Bud’ Cardos gets a certain amount of attention for his handful of Eighties Horror and SF films – although mostly for Kingdom of the Spiders, which is, admittedly one of the better “nature gone wild” films of the seventies.

Here, he offers us one of the most atypical zombie films of the era — if that’s exactly what it is.  We’ve got a pair of big city kids who have to spend the night in a redneck southern town after some of the locals run their car off the road.  That sounds like it came from another film altogether, as does the tough local sheriff who expects them to clear out of town the next day.

But most of the people in town have come down with some sort of strange illness, and strange and sinister things are going on in the shadows.

And then one of the boys vanishes.

The…zombies (for want of a better word) have some highly unusual features — particularly the way they feed! — which might have shown up in some Lovecraftian horror, but not in any zombie film I remember.  Their origin, as a mutation, rather than the result of magic or the standard zombie disease, is not quite as interesting, but is still one of the rarer variations on the theme.

Not that that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been used a few dozen times!

However, the mutant zombies aren’t really the reason to watch this one:  it is the slow, creepy, buildup, the gradual accumulation of facts, the eerie absence of more and more sick people, and the school with only a single boy who came to class.  This builds into a nicely creepy film, and the final explosion of zombie violence (you knew that was coming) is handled quite well, even if it isn’t as bloody as some of its competitors.

It’s a solid, Eighties horror film, with a few nice touches.  While it may not be a great classic, it will fit the bill nicely for a midnight viewing.

And we can always use a few more midnight movies.

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