The homage to 80s vampire flicks commits the mortal sin of being boring.
Micro budget horror movies have often been a good entry point for independent filmmakers trying to get a foot in the industry. There is always an audience for the genre, and they’re easily marketable, which creates a tidal wave of cheaply produced horror every year. The 1% of them that work, really work, can be a fascinating introduction to an exciting new artist. But the 99% of them that don’t work really don’t work.
Sometimes even the ones that don’t work have something going for them. It can be a premise that’s too insane to ignore (*cough* Human Centipede *cough*) or a gonzo performance that at least makes the proceedings watchable (any Nick Cage film in the past 15 years). The Shed, the latest offering from horror streaming service Shudder, has nothing going for it on any level.
The gist of the movie is this: a bullied, troubled teen named Stan (Jay Jay Warren) discovers a vampire that’s taken refuge in the dilapidated shed in his grandfather’s backyard. There are a million different paths writer/director Frank Sabatella can take with this idea, but they somehow choose the least interesting one.
It quickly becomes a repetitive cycle of the same scenes: Stan and his friend, Dommer (Cody Kostro), get picked on; they have an eye-roll-inducing exchange about how unfair the world is to them; Stan has a spooky dream; the vampire eats someone in the shed. Rinse and repeat until we get to a climax so illogical it made me rewind the movie to see if I missed something. The one “highlight” may be a cover of “House of the Rising Sun” that’s so laughably terrible that it sounds like a B-side on Limp Bizkit’s Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water.
The filmmakers try to make it a throwback to stylish vampire films of the ‘80s like The Lost Boys and Near Dark, but it’s like they never bothered to watch either of those movies. The only attempt at showing any time period is having Stan listen to a heavy metal song on a cassette player while riding his bike to school. They do such a poor job at setting a time and place that one wonders if it actually takes place in the present and Stan is just a weirdo who listens to outdated technology. They could have at least gone through the trouble of putting a Ronald Reagan photo somewhere in the background.
There are a million different paths writer/director Frank Sabatella can take with this idea, but they somehow choose the least interesting one.
There’s also a glaring issue with the age of the actors. We are supposed to believe Stan, Dommer, Stan’s crush, Roxy (Sofia Happonen), and the intimidatingly-named bully Marble (Chris Petrovski) are teenagers, but they all look like they should be in their third year of grad school. It’s hard to convey the nostalgia of high school and experience the alienation we felt back then when the actors we are supposed to connect with are all beautiful 27-year-olds. There are definitely good high school-set horror movies that use older actors to play teens (Scream comes to mind), but the performances in The Shed lack the charisma to distract us from the age difference.
Speaking of high school: The Shed has to take place during the summer, because every scene at the school sports a hilariously low number of students walking around the grounds. It’s like the producers forgot to put out a casting call for extras and had to round up the youngest-looking people on the crew to pose as students at the last minute. Luckily there are no classroom scenes, because then the movie would have to explain why this high school has a student population of six people.
The Shed also commits the cardinal sin of horror movies: it’s just not scary. The only suspense comes when a character slowly walks up to the shed and we get a lazy jump scare when the vampire (who we already know is in this shed) leaps out and attacks them. This scene is played out over and over, along with some ridiculous dream sequences, including a classic “waking up into another dream” scene. At this point in cinematic horror history, no character should ever wake up into another dream unless it’s done ironically, and even that’s a stale tactic.
As bad as this movie is, it shouldn’t reflect poorly on the essential service that Shudder provides for horror fans. It’s the streaming equivalent of sneaking off into the horror section at the video store as a kid and looking at the creepy box art of hundreds of movies you weren’t allowed to watch at the time. It’s just that The Shed needs to be buried on the bottom shelf, away from anyone who may be tempted by the cover.
The Shed is now streaming on Shudder