The Shed is a wildly satisfying win for the underdogs.
Who doesn’t love a good revenge movie? It’s one of my favorite subgenres. The table-turning twists that find the prey becoming the hunter. The latest film from Frank Sabatella(Blood Night: The Legend Of Mary Hatchet) premiering to sold-out crowds at Brooklyn Horror Film Festival is a refreshing take on societal ills and real-life monsters. It is nostalgic without being trite, gory without being gross, and fun as hell.
The premise is precise in scope and never wavers from the truth of the characters. What would you do if you had been systematically bullied and beaten down by life only to find a deadly creature to even the scales? It’s an intriguing question, and Sabatella doesn’t shy away from the good, bad, and the ugly of the answer. How each of our three main characters deals with the discovery and its potential use is the heart of the drama. Yes, revenge can be cathartic, but that doesn’t make it right. That being said, I enjoyed some of the kills more than I probably should. Monsters, real and metaphorical, come from an actual place. Both kinds are created in a hell of their own.
Two highschoolers Dommer(Kody Kostro) and Stan(Jay Jay Warren), have it rough. They get bullied at home and school, and in general, are treated like punching bags emotionally and physically. From the interactions seen between garden variety bully Marbel, played delightfully brutish by Chris Petrovski(Madame Secretary), and his gaggle of meathead morons, this has been going on for a long time and is escalating. Dommer takes the bulk of the abuse with Stan defending him. At home, Stan lives with his Grandfather, who is far from a loving caregiver. When Stan finds a killing machine in his shed, Frank Whaley(Pulp Fiction), Dommer decides it’s time to get some retribution. What happens next is a fun return to the tension-filled classics.
Kody Kostro’s Dommer is full of pent-up rage and desperation. It is not hard to imagine this kid in school. Picked on, put down, and rejected, he fits in nowhere and begins to feel only violent action will change his circumstances. As much as adults would love to think bully culture is dying off, there are far too many Dommer’s still out there in pain. Kostro brings a barely contained anger to his scenes that simmers long before his climactic conclusion.
Warren’s Stan is an interesting mix of hopeful strength and vulnerability. He is also bullied, although not as badly as Dommer, but he maintains his humanity even when given the ultimate solution to their problems. He is also a thinker that understands inherently that there is more at stake than getting revenge. The realism Warren brings to the role grounds the film and allows for some of the more over the top performances to resonate without becoming cheesy.
Ex-gal pal Roxy(Sophia Happonen) channels insecure teen girl with absolute authenticity. She is content to be part of the fringe as long as that ensures she fits in somewhere. In reality, the boys she wants to please so badly, disrespect her. It’s a vicious cycle that anyone can relate to. Her resolution is the most surprising and rewarding, all while remaining very true to the formula. Creative use of the “final girl” theme rewards the inner romcom fangirl in us all.
Distinctive blood gags are employed to bathe scenes in blood without actually showing anything gory. It is an excellent device that creates dread rather than revulsion. Smart storyboarding showcases dream within a dream sequences that are great jump scares and emotion-driven plot development rather than cheap scares. Not since Night Of The Comet has that technique been used so well. If all else fails to capture your attention, one fantastic preparatory montage set to an incredible retooling of The House Of The Rising Sun, The Rising Sun Blues, arranged by Zoe Poledouris and Angel Roche, Jr., performed by Looner, absolutely should sell you. The entire soundtrack is great in fact, especially for those who appreciate the angsty rock of the ’90s and the driving beat of the ’80s. I felt a serious need to break out some Scorpions or Def Leopard after watching. This is a fun horror movie for lovers of old-school monster films with a decidedly modern sensibility.
DP Matthias Schubert(Downrange) utilizes tightly controlled shots to show only what is necessary to produce fear. Time is not wasted on unnecessary wide or panning scenes. The opening sequence establishes the evil and a top-down roving view, sets the film firmly in small-town Anywhere USA. Tight frames of the creature at the end suggestive of the classic Creepshow highlight interesting makeup and prosthetic work by Jeremy Selenfriend.
There genuinely is something for every horror lover in this part revenge, part vampire feature. With a kick-ass soundtrack and excellent creature design, The Shed is a throwback to plot-driven horror from the ’80s and ’90s. Reminiscent of classics like The Lost Boys and Fright Night, this film asks dark questions in a lite way. If nothing else, give it a chance for making vampires beasts again, and not glittering, brooding sex fiends. It’s about time.
Tyler has been the editor in chief of Signal Horizon since its conception. He is also the Director of Monsters 101 at Truman State University a class that pairs horror movie criticism with survival skills to help middle and high school students learn critical thinking. When he is not watching, teaching or thinking about horror he is the Director of Debate and Forensics at a high school in Kansas City, Missouri.