Sunday, January 22, 2012

Shackled and Living a Nightmare: A Movie Review

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*full disclosure: an online screener of this film was provided by Midnight Releasing.

Director: Dave McCabe.

Writers: Dave McCabe, Ambrose McDermott, and Stephen Cumiskey.

Cast: Brian Fortune, Ruth McIntyre, Donna Bradley, Andy Blaikie, Gerry Shanahan, Vivienne Connolly

Brian McDonald (Simon Fogarty) was never a man of mystery in the movie Shackled. He rose up the ranks to become a police detective and there was one special case that he was hot on the trail of … but days later, when he is found dead on a beach by law enforcement, more than a few people are talking.

In the days following his funeral, his sister Sarah (Donna Bradley) still feels emotionally distraught. She has to undergo therapy and inherits Brian’s journal. But that is not enough closure for her. She and Michael Grant (Andrew Blaikie), a childhood friend of the McDonald clan, have far too many questions still to ask. And what they uncover is a conspiracy that ties into the mother’s side of the family.

Both Sarah and Brian were fostered. Their father never explained, and the siblings never pushed to get the answers they wanted until now. All roads seem to lead to Sarah’s heritage. She stands to inherit the fortune and secrets that the Bell Estate has. Instead of the rustic decay of the old castles and stone edifices that some people may equate Ireland to, this one stays rooted in modern times.

The two friends act like Mulder and Scully, but this movie is not "X-files." And nor does it try to introduce a romantic angle later on in the film. The movie is beautiful in that regard. Not all films require the heroes to suddenly fall in love. They have a mutual respect for each other that stands out as the tale moves along. When they look deeper into what Brian was investigating, they wander into a lair of subterfuge.

But this film is also a gentle thriller that nicely divulges as well as tantalizes. The matriarch, Margaret Bell (Ruth McIntyre), knew what happened at the family estate. But by the time Sarah and Michael reach her, other people are out to stop them. This movie gets more engaging from this point on and the aging process done by the makeup artists on Bell must be praised. Not much needs to be done to make her look old, but that’s one of the more appreciable subtle elements of this film.

Director Dave McCabe does a very good job at offering the clues when this film needs to engage the viewer. They keep interest alive during the slower parts of the narrative and raise the action to keep the blood pumping. Also fascinating are the dreams that Sarah has. They are etheric in quality and whenever the mysterious black robed spectres appear, linking Sarah’s experiences to Brian’s, viewers will have to ask who are they? The porcelain masks give these strangers an Asian quality to this film. These sequences are also an accurate representation of how some nightmares can play out.

In what Sarah tries to figure out from them, that is subject to interpretation. Viewers can rewind the video when the DVD releases March 6th to figure out the revelation for themselves.

Overall: 7 out of 10.

*DVD special features:
-Audio Commentary
-"The Making of Shackled" Featurette
-Blooper Reel
-Introduction to the Film by Director Dave McCabe
-Short Film: "The Hollow Girl"

The film's homepage:

Shackled at Midnight Releasing w/Trailer

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