The Shed Review
Horror is doing mighty fine right now; we’ve had some genuinely terrifying big studio horrors (The Quiet Place, The Invisible Man) and indie horror is alive and well. Every now and then you get a little film that’s been made with a small budget and a little crew and, it’s perfect. It knows how to utilise the little money and the few sets they had and create a singular, unique horror experience.
I really wish The Shed had done that.
It begins with a bang. A man is running in the woods, pursued by an unknown entity. This turns out to be an ancient vampire which manages to bite this poor man before turning into dust at daylight, the bitee flees to a nearby shed for shelter. The shed belongs to the grandfather of Stan (Jay Jay Warren), who became Stan’s guardian after his mother died of cancer and his grief-stricken father committed suicide, both which still haunt poor Stan. Of course, Stan discovers what’s hiding on his grandfather's property; how exactly do you deal with a deadly vampire in your shed?
Badly, as it turns out. The most frustrating thing about The Shed is that the characters make incredibly stupid decisions throughout the film and this makes it hard to root for them. While there’s plenty of potential here, it all feels wasted.
It’s a bold move from writer-director Frank Sabatella to reveal straight away what’s in the shed. Josh Lobo created a haunting film about the mystery of what’s behind a door in I Trapped the Devil, the horror stemming from the uncertainty of knowing what horrors lie on the other side of the door. Here, there’s no mystery, no guessing, we know it’s a vampire and it’s about to create some havoc in Stan’s life, with suitably bloody results.
Jay Jay Warren is likeable enough as Stan, but the script doesn’t really give him much of a personality or motive. Cody Kostro plays Stan’s best friend Dommer who is mercilessly bullied by a group of guys. While Kostro tends to overplay it often there’s certain tragedy to his character, especially as Dommer figures out he can use the shed to get revenge. This is where the film’s heart could, maybe even should, have been, but no effort is made to explore deeper themes.
While it’s certainly interesting that Sabatella takes such a tired, but compelling premise and then does everything to subvert it and take a different route through the narrative, it’s a shame The Shed is a film that takes itself so seriously. A little humour doesn’t kill the terror, it amplifies it and humanises the characters. At times, the film is so cringe-worthy it’s physically painful, but there is also something refreshing about a film that is so straightforward with its ideas.
If there are themes here, they’re a little convoluted. If only what was hiding in the shed had been left a mystery, it could have been a very competent look at one’s demons and grief. Instead, we're left asking what’s the point here? Is this a film about Stan fighting his own demons or perhaps unleashing them, learning how to live with them? It’s never clear what The Shed wants to say about the world it portrays. A better film would have, perhaps, utilised the bullying aspect to explore the vengeance often desired by victims and the emptiness it can leave inside.
Not all is bad though. The Shed is gloriously gory and violent, which a lot of the times is enough. The vampire make-up is reminiscent of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and while some might call is clumsy and outdated, I’d call it vintage. It's a missed opportunity that the film can never quite settle on a theme, however, it’s still a perfectly fine way to spend 98 minutes.
The Shed is released digitally on May 11th.