Shadowzone [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - America - Full Moon Features
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (10th May 2024).
The Film

NASA Captain Hickock (Creepshow 2's David Beecroft) arrives at the Jackass Flats Proving Ground underground research facility to investigate the death of one of the research subjects of the government-funded "Shadowzone" project, an "extended sleep study" with applications for space travel supervised by the shifty Dr. Van Fleet (Big Trouble in Little China's James Hong). Although the research team - including imperious Dr. Erhardt (Flowers in the Attic's Louise Fletcher), pretty Dr. Kidwell (Baywatch's Shawn Weatherly), and computer tech Wiley (Return of the Living Dead's Miguel A. Núñez Jr.) - insist that the test subject died of a cerebral hemorrhage unrelated to the testing, Hickock has them re-run the fatal simulation. Taking one of the subjects down to a profound level of dreaming sleep allows a being from a parallel dimension (contact with which the brain would normally prevent by waking the sleeper as a self-defense mechanism) nicknamed "John Doe" who overrides the computer system and traps Hickock and the crew - along with comic relief janitor Shivers (The Forsaken's Frederick Flynn) and surly ex-brothel keeper-turned-cook Cutter (Starman's Lu Leonard) - underground and begins taking the forms of their nightmares to kill them one by one. Surviving test subject Jenna (Psycho Cop Returns' Maureen Flaherty) - nicknamed "Sleeping Beauty" - may be the only way to send the monster back to its dimension if they can keep her alive long enough.

From the director of the underrated eighties supernatural slasher The Slayer and the atmospheric Wicked Little Things J.S. Cardone comes this thoroughly predictable if nonetheless entertaining body count film in a bunker made under the auspices of Charles Band's Full Moon Productions (in their Paramount video distribution era). Cheaply conceived and shot, Shadowzone is dead serious in tone and diverting enough; but it could have benefited from better creature effects. Hong's sinister doctor character is no real stretch for his range while Beecroft's hero is even more one dimensional. Fletcher, on the other hand, makes the most out of a somewhat flimsy character and invests it with a measure of humor and "red herring-ness" it might not have otherwise possessed. A fair amount of grisly gore – courtesy of Phantasm II's Mark Shostrum, and possibly trimmed for an R-rating – a surprising amount of nudity for a Full Moon production, and nary a pint-sized doll character in sight, the film is only really let down by its monster once visualized. The photography of Karen Grossman (Microwave Massacre) and the score by Richard Band (Castle Freak) are rather undistinguished for a Full Moon production.


Released to laserdisc and video by Paramount, Shadowzone arrived on DVD first through Koch Vision who distributed a few later Paramount Full Moon titles and several of the post-Paramount Full Moon titles before Full Moon took over operations themselves. That DVD featured the hazy-looking open-matte video master despite a cover claiming "widescreen" – a mistake also repeated on their release of Puppet Master – and that transfer was also used for Full Moon's own subsequent DVD releases.

Full Moon's 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.78:1 widescreen Blu-ray of course comes from a newer transfer, but one that constantly exposes the rough edges of the production. While the Full Moon productions of this period shot by the likes of Mac Ahlberg and Adolfo Bartoli looked generally slick, Shadowzone's cinematography is hazy by design to obscure frontal nudity of the test subjects in long shots wide shots, and the underground settings utilize smoke and steam throughout, but backlighting and practical light sources bloom and flare throughout sometimes giving the impression light leaks along the edge of the frame. While the new widescreen presentation of Seedpeople revealed the earlier fullscreen presentations to be cropped on the sides, the widescreen presentation of this film is matted, with more information cropped off the bottom of the frame than the top; as such, a few closer glimpses of the test subjects that featured full frontal nudity are more obscured (surely, if this was meant to be entirely matted off theatrically then the image would have been framed for equal matting of the top and bottom of the frame rather than mostly the bottom while by this point filmmakers should have been aware of what would be on view in an open-matte presentation of a film intended for widescreen). Noise reduction might have been applied to a likely excessively grainy picture as facial features look smooth but not waxy, and some fine detail is evident in hair and the mesh of Shivers' baseball cap in close-up. The monster effects were always rubbery, but the few close-up views we get of the monster during the final scene do reveal more of the design work that evident on the video master.


The default audio option is a Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo rendering of the original Ultra Stereo track – a Dolby alternative often disparaged as being lower quality which had less to do with the technology than the fact that the company did not require the presence of a stereo consultant to audit the mix so low budget filmmakers were more concerned with having their mixes compatible with theatrical Dolby Stereo and Dolby Surround receivers – and the mix here is rather basic with the score getting the most spread and directional effects like gunshots, explosions, and animal cries. A Dolby Digital 5.1 track is accessible only via your remote's audio button and it is a basic upmix that gets the job done without any of the echo and distortion of early budget 5.1 upmixes. English SDH subtitle are also only accessible via your remote's subtitle button.


The only extras are a theatrical trailer (1:35) – it does not seem as though a Videozone making-of piece was created for this film as it has not been included on the DVDs and was not mentioned on the laserdisc or VHS descriptions – and Full Moon trailers for six newer titles.


From the director of the underrated eighties supernatural slasher The Slayer and the atmospheric Wicked Little Things J.S. Cardone comes this thoroughly predictable if nonetheless entertaining body count film in a bunker made under the auspices of Charles Band's Full Moon Productions.


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