31 Days of Hell: The Shed Misses as a Vampiric High School Drama

image courtesy Shudder

Written and directed by Frank Sabatella, The Shed is a classic teen-drama movie with a vampiric twist thrown into the mix. The movie follows Stanley (Jay Jay Warren), an orphan who went to live with his abusive grandfather (Timothy Bottoms). Battered by his grandfather at home, and bullied at school by a trio of classic high-school bullies, Stanley takes refuge in his friendship with Dommer (Cody Kostro), another victim of the bullies with a mean streak. Meanwhile, a vampire takes up refuge in Stanley’s shed out of necessity as daylight approaches. The vampire (Frank Whaley) kills anything and everyone who comes near the shed. After Stanley narrowly escapes being eaten after wandering in unsuspectingly, he barricades the doors and windows to keep the creature in until he can figure out what to do with it.

The classic high school drama set up is complete with Stanley’s crush, Roxy (Sofia Happonen) who just happens to be involved romantically with Stanley’s bully Marble (Chris Petrovski). Unfortunately, the characters do not branch out much further from these stereotypical roles. There is very little done to characterize anyone visually, as most of it is done with expositional dialogue. Most characters do not have much of an arc, and mostly act from a predictable motivation throughout. Dommer wants revenge on the bullies and attempts to use the vampire to do so. Stanley is simply trying to not go back to the orphanage, and the bullies are trying to terrorize and poke fun at the main characters. This doesn’t change much throughout the film.

image courtesy Shudder

There are also threats that are set up that do not go anywhere. Near the beginning of the movie, Stanley has a run in with Sheriff Dorney (Siobhan Fallon Hogan) and Deputy Haiser (Mu-Shaka Benson). Sheriff Dorney is relatively nice and helpful to Stanley, even saying that he just needs a break, while Deputy Haiser is much more aggressive, telling Stanley that if he steps out of line once, he will put him in jail. It was a surprise then that Deputy Haiser never appears in the movie after this one scene, and Sheriff Dorney becomes much more of a threat to Stanley. Setting up threats that go nowhere gave the movie a looser feeling, as if threads were dropped or forgotten somewhere.

One aspect that I did appreciate was the emo-punk vibe that certain aspects of the movie brought on. Stanley’s music choice, apart from the worst cover of House of the Rising Sun ever, made the movie really feel like an edgy teen was the star. His room and costumes fit the vibe as well, a smart choice that made the movie feel more teenage angst driven, rather than vampire driven.

Despite these choices, there was much more that disappointed me about this film. The horror relied heavily on jump scares, which after the first several became very dull. The jump scares were set up in predictable ways as well. There are several dream sequences marked by a shift in coloration on screen which often ended in a jump scare, and some dream sequences were layered to get two scares out of the same scene. An over reliance on jump scares that do not advance the plot forward have always come across as lazy, and typically have diminishing returns on fear. After the first several you start to expect it and listen for the audio or visual cues that one is coming, spoiling the effect.

This may be a miss, but it could serve as an easy watch during these 31 days of hell.

-Patrick Bernas