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OUT OF THE SHADOWS (15)
Director: Dee McLachlan
Screenplay: Dee McLachlan, Eric C. Nash
Starring: Goran D. Kleut, Lisa Chappell, Jake Ryan
Review: David Stephens
Okay, so this could get a little confusing. “Out of the Shadows” is not the same-titled Australian haunted-house film which has just been released in its home territory. Nor is it any one of a number of same-titled TV movies that exist on IMDB, one of which is a dramatized history of the “Deep Throat” Watergate informant. And it’s certainly not related to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles! This is actually the UK name (why, oh why, do we get the lazy re-titles?) for a found-footage horror sequel. Otherwise known as “7 Nights of Darkness 2: The Devil's Toy Box” (or just “The Devil’s Toy Box”), this is a low-budget Indie follow-up to the 2011 film called (unsurprisingly) “7 Nights of Darkness”. In that movie, six reality television show contestants tried to spend seven nights in an abandoned and “haunted” asylum. Of course, they all vanish, leaving one survivor and shed-loads of found-footage behind them. The director/writer of that film (Allen Kellogg) returns in the same capacity for this sequel, which is also found-footage based. Just released onto DVD in the UK, YGROY takes a look to see if we’re shaken over the asylum…
Some six years after the events of “7 Nights of Darkness” (or “One of the greatest mysteries of our time” as our mockumentary host has it), the lone survivor (director Kellogg playing Carter and repeating his role from the first film) is suffering from guilt and still no idea as to what happened to his colleagues in the programme. Of course media attention has plagued him and he finds himself pursued by a new documentary crew to re-enter the site of the incident and film an investigation. Carter resists until the daughter of one of the victims (Cynthia played by Brooke Morrison) finally persuades him to join the team. So we’re in for more camcorder and mini-cam shenanigans as the new gang enters the deserted Madison Seminary to investigate the fate of those that went missing. This time the group is larger and consists of an ordained demonologist, a psychic, and the usual assortment of tech-guys and a grasping TV exec. It doesn’t take long for strange presences to make themselves known, and an insidious plan to become apparent…
One nice thing about the film is that it’s a genuinely stand-alone story. You really don’t need to be aware of the events of the first movie to appreciate the narrative here, although it fits together nicely and works as a continuous plot-strand anyway. Aside from that, we’re plunged straight into found-footage territory here, apart from some nods to the “mockumentary” aspect. So again, if you’re not an F/F lover, this isn’t going to convert you…
As expected, a lot of the sequences owe a tip-of-the-hat to the likes of “Blair Witch” and “Paranormal Activity”, not to mention some occasional visual spoonful’s of J-Horror (one sequence in a bed directly echoes a scene from “The Grudge” series). In practise however, it feels a lot like more like “Grave Encounters” (2011) and all the other found-footage films that locate themselves in haunted asylums/mansions (seriously … there are a LOT of those).
The budget is obviously ultra-low (although Kellogg has stated in interviews that it was about twice that of the first film) and there was only 14 days of principal photography. So with that in mind, there’s some pretty accomplished stuff in here. CG is kept to a minimum (for obvious reasons), and there’s some neat visual tricks with the likes of a child’s ball and a bat (the flappy kind). Mirrors and background details are also used well for subtle chills, and there’s a brilliant sequence that uses a creepy doll’s face to provide a great scare.
Some of the more innovative moments play with some fine use of reality-bending and time-distortion, which enables a few winks to the first film, as well as an excuse for some more overt horror (the POV scene of a lobotomy victim). Somewhat weirdly (and despite its “star-billing”) the intriguing “Devil’s Toy Box” (basically a bit of cheap demon-busting paraphernalia) barely gets used in the plot. There is a nice feeling of an overall story-arc though, which leads to a clever (if unspectacular) final scene.
Although Kellogg works well with the locations and the set-ups, it can feel a little “stagey” at times and some lengthy scenes take place in almost pitch-black conditions, which becomes a little tiresome as oppose to atmospheric. Some of the lines don’t work so well either; “I do not need any negative energy … and that includes fear!” Although full marks for including the dialogue; “I don’t think he’s going to pack his ghost bags and walk out the front door!”
But despite all that, and what’s been accomplished on the miniscule production values, although it holds the attention it never really squeezes it. We’ve been kind of spoilt over the years with found-footage and mockumentary horrors by now. With impressive recent efforts like “Savageland” and superlative older examples like “Lake Mungo” (2008), it’s easy to be underwhelmed by new films of that sort unless they genuinely push the envelope. When “7 Day of Darkness” first came out, it had a little more novelty value and the “reality” angle wasn’t so over-used back then. But these days, we have had so many trapped-in-an-asylum-with-a-camera and ghost-hunter-TV-show-goes-wrong films that it just feels over-familiar.
As it stands, it’s not a bad film of its kind, and manages to include some clever and scary moments. But as far as found-footage horror goes, there’s not really enough here to make it stand-out from the over-populated crowd. It’s effective enough late-night material, but it won’t make prime-time.
DVD Extras: Out of the extras. Not even a trailer, chapters, or audio selection.
Despite some neat and innovative moments, OOTS doesn’t really push the envelope enough and feels a little dated as a result. The reality/time-bending aspects are proficiently executed and there are occasional moments that feel genuinely creepy and skin-crawling. But overall it still owes too much to many over-used genre tropes and loses its impact. Interesting, but not outstanding.
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