VOD Releases: The Shadow Effect (2017) - Reviewed

Where have all the thrillers gone? Okay, so may be thrillers aren’t “gone” per se, but they’re definitely not what they used to be. 

Changing times and technology have forced an edge onto thrillers that didn’t need to be there, and a polish that dismays the grittiness of the old school '80s and '90s thrillers we love. There’s something to be said for a taut action thriller in the year 2017. Fans of the genre have taken to the expanding world of streaming and VOD to find diamonds in the rough, and many will likely find and be pleased with The Shadow Effect.

The Shadow Effect features Cam Gigandet (Easy A) as Gabriel, a man haunted by incredibly vivid, violent nightmares. As his efforts to control these intense thoughts, with the help of his therapist (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers of The Tudors, looking probably not accidentally like Doctor Strange here), fail, he finds himself drawn into his “dream” world, which quickly becomes more real than he could possibly imagine. True to this site’s “no spoilers” mission statement, not much more can specifically be revealed here, but there are plenty of twists and turns on the way to Gabriel learning the shocking truth.

The Shadow Effect is a serviceable, old-fashioned thriller, the kind you might stumble upon on late night TV and find yourself getting into. The premise is interesting enough to keep you watching, and the performances are more solid than you might expect. Gigandet is a reasonably charismatic lead, and does an admirable job with a difficult character. We don’t get much of Rhys-Meyers, but he makes the most of it. And old school thriller fans will get a kick out of seeing 80s action icon Michael Biehn still doing what Michael Biehn does, even at age 60. 

But sacrifices are made when the budget gets smaller, and the seams are occasionally all too visible. The special effects, for one, are at their worst cringe-inducing, and while this is not a terribly FX-heavy film the shortcomings here are all too noticeable. Also, as thrillers like this one often go, the third act reveal is a bit busy and confusing and the film does meander a bit getting there. While these things are distracting at best and off-putting at worst, they manage not to distract too much from the otherwise thrilling action sequences and a well-paced narrative.

The Shadow Effect is certainly not a perfect film. But it is a satisfying nostalgia trip of a thriller. The film’s little imperfections end up working in service to it, adding a gritty authenticity reminiscent of thrillers past. It’s encouraging to see that films like The Shadow Effect are still being made, as there will always be an audience for them, anxiously awaiting something new while longing for that old familiar feel. This is where The Shadow Effect delivers in spades. The Shadow Effect is a film that deserves to be found by a welcoming audience that can appreciate the classics while living in the now.

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-Mike Stec