SHADOW: DEAD RIOT (2006) – The Dungeon Review!
I must admit, I never heard of Shadow: Dead Riot before it appeared on my coffee table. A guy my husband works with lent it to him. It has a crappy name, and a lame cover but after reading the back of the DVD I decided it could be fun, not to mention, it qualified for zombie month. Shadow: Dead Riot pays homage to women in prison flicks with a wink and a nod to Italian horror. It also has a lively fight sequence, a nasty mutated baby and Tony Todd as a voodoo practicing serial killer back from the dead with an army of zombies. Sound pretty great right? Unfortunately, it is not nearly as awesome as it sounds on paper, but it does have its moments.
A convict named Shadow, accused of killing and draining the blood from several pregnant women is about to be executed by lethal injection. The process ends up being considerably messier than anticipated and soon Shadow’s blood is creeping like tentacles into the cellblock. With Shadow’s powerful blood beckoning them, the convicts bust out of their cells and start a riot. Guards and prisoners alike are being beaten, stabbed and shot to death and the body count is significant. There’s only one thing to do. Dig a giant hole in the yard and dump all the dead bodies and then shut her down. 20 years later the Ellis Dam Penitentiary has now become the Ellis Glen Experimental Facility For Women. We meet new convict Solitaire who quickly wins bonus points after kicking the crap out of Mondo, the prison’s bully. As an award for her good deed, she gets thrown into solitary confinement. As luck would have it, Solitaire is put in the cell formerly inhabited by Shadow. A ritualistic symbol on the floor catches her eye and touching it gives her an ugly glimpse into Shadow’s world and seemingly awakens the beast. It seems there may be a connection between Solitaire and Shadow and she will need to prepare herself to fight him and his undead minions.
My main issue with Shadow: Dead Riot is it pays homage to exploitation but never goes far enough. It is not nearly as meaty as the films it admires and the DVD was noted as the “unrated version”. It all felt way too safe. There was an attractive female guard who was offering up protection for sexual favors, but she wasn’t the least bit intimidating. In fact, I thought she was pretty funny. It’s so melodramatic at times I couldn’t help but chuckle. A lot of the acting was pretty shaky. Between the hammy dialog and the bad delivery it ends up being equal parts painful and amusing. There’s a shower scene and a couple “almost” lesbian scenes, but otherwise it’s a bit tame. The film has an addict, named Meth who is having sex with the prison doctor in exchange for drugs. Meth has some of the best hammy dialog in the film. Watch for her awesome exchange with Preggers (more on Preggers later)! Funny shit! And then of course, there is a bully named Mondo. Mondo is built like a linebacker and is feared by all. That is, until our heroine Solitaire shows up. Carla Greene tries her darnedest to play Solitaire with some seriousness and actually seems to have some fighting skills, but she’s not exactly dynamic. It is exploitation-lite and the first half of the film is too slow, but it does have a few bits of entertainment. The film finally goes into horror mode and we get some gore.
The film opens 20 years prior with Shadow going to his execution. In this opening scene we see Shadow carving a symbol into his hand and arm, filing his teeth, sharpening his nails and biting a guard. The prison riot that follows the execution is brief but violent. So, we get a little bit of blood and gore here, but then we have to wait forever to get more. They do throw in a decent looking fight scene and a few flashbacks of Shadows shenanigans to tide you over, but there is too much damn yakking. There is some reward for your patience however. Tony Todd’s performance is pretty cheesy but he does show some enthusiasm for the role. Even with the sharpened teeth, and pointed razor-like nails, his character just doesn’t look very intimidating. Like many things in this film, I found Shadow more amusing than scary. The films wackiest and most entertaining element is the mutated baby. Emily has been nicknamed “Preggers” by her cellmates and is assumingly the empathetic character of the group. I won’t explain the hows or whys, but Preggers ends up giving birth on the lawn in the same location where several inmates were buried. You know that spells trouble! The mutated baby doesn’t turn up nearly often enough but it is a delightful treat when it does. I particularly enjoyed baby biting off mommies nipple! And last but not least there are zombies. Some look better than others but they are all quite rotted looking. The zombie’s come late and play a fairly minor part, although they do manage to finish off pretty much every character in the film. There is a spattering of other entertaining gore and blood letting of various quality. There are some hokey and cheap looking effects, but there are a few that looked pretty decent also.
Shadow: Dead Riot is an exploitation homage that fails to capture the grittiness of the material it emulates. The bad acting and dialog is amusing at times but is more often painful. The film starts out far too slowly, and even though it picks up considerably, it’s too little too late. Despite all this, the film has some decent gore and entertaining moments so I am squeezing it in for a pass. Be warned! Rent at your own risk.
Dungeon Rating: 2.5/5
Directed By: Derek Wan
Starring: Tony Todd, Carla Greene, Nina Hodoruk, Michael Quinlan, Cat Miller, Andrea Langi, Tatianna Butler, Misty Mundae, Debbie Pingitore, Anna Curtis, Ruby Larocca, Danielle Riley