New in the MVD Rewind Collection, Bram Stoker’s Shadowbuilder gets upgraded to Blu-Ray
Who are you? Stay back!
A demon is summoned by an evil Archbishop, thus the Shadowbuilder walks the earth ready to destroy! That’s the blanket statement that leads us into this hellish cat and mouse play of hunter (the demon) and hunted (humans who stray from the light)—see the epistemological moral here?
Jamie Dixon is better known as a visual effects supervisor than a director. He is credited with films like X-Men, Titanic, True Lies, Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare. Between visual work on Flubber and Warlock III: The End of Innocence, he directed his first film Shadowbuilder. It was not until almost two decades later when he got back in the director’s chair for the 2007 TV movie Bats: Human Harvest.
It’s obvious where Dixon’s talents lie, but having a cast that includes Michael Rooker (JFK, Cliffhanger, Days of Thunder), Leslie Hope (Crimson Peak), Kevin Zegers (Dawn of the Dead) and Tony Todd (Candyman) gave this move some sass to an otherwise oddball update to a haunting Stoker story that sounds more like a take off from a Grim’s fairy tale—the demon looks like a cross between Predator and a black oil slick hovering over the waters of the Atlantic. Either way the goal of this film is to clean up evil, even if you have to sacrifice everything (must be the Nike references), including the electric bill (there is a point in the film where the people of Grand River have to leave their lights on at night).
With his signature gravelly voice and “no fucks given” attitude, Rooker makes this film enjoyable. He can turn the four-letter word into poignant poetry, a harsh statement of reality overshadowing the cloth of the church—Rooker is the priest Jacob Vassey. He is a conflicted man battling between the moral ethics of good while conjuring up the levels of being a badass. Then again, the world is on his hands as he is the only who really understands everything that happened.
Vassey was there when the priests performed their black mass and summoned the demon. Since escaping, he has been following the darkness that leads him to a boy, Chris Hatcher (Zegler). His soul is what the Shadow Builder is after. In the meantime, when he consumes human souls, the body’s of its victims turn into a post-Pompeiian shadow of itself, instantly disintegrating when light hits it. The effect is a quality that is pleasantly surprising for a film of this caliber. It’s not easy to exemplify shadows. Dixon looks to the stylistic comparisons of Candyman and is a decent competitor for John Carpenter’s Vampires, released the same year. I cannot say that Vassey’s Wild West style six shooting action is direct competition for Vampires’ Western premise, but the coincidence is there.
Each time the Shadowbuilder kills and consumes a human soul, the more powerful he gets in the light. Eventually, the Shadowbuilder kidnaps the boy. He knows it must be done to save the people of Grand River and possibly the world. Hatcher is the key to the fires of hell on earth, or something like that. Shadowbuilder is a struggle between good and evil. For the survival of humanity and the morality of the soul stemmed from decisions of the conscious, the film follows a traditional plot sequence and offers a fun climactic ending that is not at all surprising.
There is an exhaustive list of special features including audio commentary from Dixon, a “Making of Shadowbuilder,” a visual effects featurette (seems obvious), and much more. The film, released during the DVD craze, presents a nifty casing design. It mimics the aesthetic of a used VHS rental you would find in the horror section of a mom and pop rental store. For what it is, Shadowbuilder is a fun Friday night horror film to watch or rewatch, especially if you have fond memories of Friday night haunts.