Posts Tagged ‘Chameleon Shadow’

First up out of the gate in our October-long look at some of the more — and I say this with all due respect — obscure horror offerings available for streaming on Amazon Prime we have Chameleon Shadow, a micro-budget affair from writer/director/star Sam Mills, who apparently spent somewhere in the neighborhood of $10,000 (probably of his own money) to shoot this thing in his hometown of Salt Lake City, Utah, earlier this very year. This is one of those flicks that barely has an IMDB presence and has attracted very few reviews to date, so let’s see if I can get the intrepid Mr. Mills on the “scoreboard” with his first official “external reviews” link, shall we?

Right off the bat we’re greeted with some far more well-composed and “artsy”-looking shots than we’re accustomed to from essentially “homemade” efforts such as this, and while I can’t say for certain, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least to learn that Mills, like his character of Cameron in the film, was a photographer by trade. The moody B&W opening sequence is actually quite effective and atmospheric, and if the whole thing played out like this it would probably, yeah, alienate some viewers, but I wouldn’t be one of them. Unfortunately, though, it doesn’t — and that’s where we get into some “problem territory.”

Obviously no one in their right minds expects much in terms of production values with a flick of this nature, but seriously — even by amateur standards, this is some sub-amateur stuff. The premise here is actually kinda intriguing — Cameron, plagued by troubling dreams, acquires a vaguely Mothman-esque companion in the form of our titular Chameleon Shadow, a supernatural (perhaps even psycho-kinetic or straight-up psychosomatic) “being” (after a fashion) that can ease his restless nights, but at a terrible cost : his dark nightmares becoming a reality in the waking world — but a lot of the execution really does let the side down. Mills himself isn’t much of an actor and can’t be relied upon to carry a production (even one that he’s helming); key supporting performers such as Kirsten Caron, who plays his friend Patty, and Louis Burkhardt, who plays one Dr. Finch, fare no better and are in need of some community theater training, at the least; sound quality is obviously something Mills is still in the process of figuring out; uneven pacing grinds the story to a halt at times when it should be ramping up; somewhat competent visual effects work is hampered by lack of creativity moreseo than lack of funds — you get the idea. Lots of scenes really do look good, but when Mills ventures out of the art-house and into straight, “point-and-shoot” filmmaking, the whole thing becomes both dull to look at and, I’m sorry to say, a bit of a chore to endure.

I’ll say this much, though : I certainly don’t believe it’s for lack of trying. Mills seems to have invested a lot of heart and soul (as well as probably his entire savings) into this project, and I’ll always respect that. And he gets bonus points for not taking the easy, cop-out route of trying to write his film’s technical shortcomings into the script itself by presenting it as yet another “found footage” horror flick (we’ll be getting into a few of those as the month goes along, no doubt), but I’m just not a generous enough critic to equate a “try” with a “win.” I appreciate the fact that Mills is, in fact, doing his best to make a movie on what he’s got — but that doesn’t mean that what he ended up making is worth your time to watch.

Which, I suppose, comes off as at least a trifle harsh. And when it comes to labors of love like this one, I always feel vaguely like an asshole for pissing on something that so much blood, sweat, and tears went into. But if I don’t call it like I see, then shit — what’s the whole point of this “armchair critic” gig in the first place? As long as all proper allowances are made for the inherent “shortcomings” (although the truly inventive find ways to make those strengths) of micro-budget flicks, a person should always feel free to judge ’em on their merits, am I right?

And hey, it’s not like I think Mills should give this whole “moviemaker dream” of his up and see if Costco is hiring. He shows a fine eye for composition and there’s a kernel of a good story hiding under all the half-assed dialogue and dodgy plotting in Chameleon Shadow. He, like any number of other backyard Spielbergs, just needs a lot more practice —and, yeah, okay, maybe some more money. But get the practice in first, please.