Shadow In The Cloud Review- Chloë Grace Moretz Shines In This Bonkers Monster Movie
Shadow In The Cloud is a femme-powered middle finger to every guy who thought women weren’t tough motherf@#kers.
2020 has sucked. Between job loss, quarantine, murder hornets, and death, there has been a real shortage of surprising movies. The kinds of films that genuinely shock you with their sheer audacity and eye-popping craziness were hard to come by. A few horror movies in 2020 are well worth your time, but most don’t carry the same level of fun and reality suspension as Shadow In The Cloud. This thoroughly entertaining film feels like The Tiger King of horror movies. Sure it’s nuts, but that’s why you love it.
A bonkers pulse-raising ride into World War 2 aboard a plane named The Fool’s Errand appropriately is the setting for this horror/fantasy thriller. Roseanne Liang’s Shadow In The Cloud is a female energy fueled good time you have to see to believe. What started as a screenplay by Max Landis was transformed by Liang into an entirely different beast that doesn’t give two rips what you think of women. The irony isn’t lost on the viewer that Landis, who has been accused of sexual assault and abuse by many women, had his script retooled to suit Liang’s vision better. What probably was envisioned as some sort of Ellen Ripley survival in the sky piece becomes a “Get away from her you bitch” moment for Chloë Grace Moretz, who has that unique ability to look one way and act another.
This is Moretz’s film to lead. Without a doubt, she is the star and the focus of every shot, even when she is sharing screentime with a ridiculous winged beast. In more than half of the film, hers is the only face you see. In anyone else’s hands, it could have gone so disastrously wrong. Liang and Moretz lean all the way into the vision and embrace the absurdity of their premise. Moretz has shown a penchant for playing fragile-looking characters but forged in fire, with a ferocious attitude to boot. Anyone who saw her as Hit-Girl in Kick-Ass knows what I am talking about. She may be tiny, but don’t underestimate her. She’s no one’s dolly, dame, or chic.
Captain Maude comes aboard the plane in a cloud of confusion, catcalls, and nervous energy. She has a special package(pun intended) that needs protecting, a bruised cheek, and a broken arm. She looks weak, but she is anything but. The boys she’s flying with are cartoon versions of men. They are jokes that make perfect sense after realizing what is going on in the classified package Maude is carrying. She is capable and strong in a way only she could be.
There is the bone-deep misogynist, the well-meaning but short-sighted protector, and the exuberant, mostly harmless bros who use their boundless energy to sling smiling insults before realizing that this little girl has come to play. Only Staff Sargent Quaid, who is so easy on the eyes he could say just about anything but chooses to defend her, isn’t a complete neanderthal. It doesn’t matter that they have stuffed her into the ball turret, a glass dome underneath the plane that is exceptionally vulnerable to enemies and gremlins alike. She proves to be far more formidable than the wise-cracking men.
Moretz’s Captain Maude Garrett is a badass who can fly a plane, shoot enemy aircraft out of the sky, shrug off obnoxious male toxicity, and show her mama bear tendencies, all while climbing all over the inside and outside of a B-17 Bomber in flight. Maude and the crew have a ton to deal with, and she handles it all with steel in her eyes and a fierce determinism.
At one point, she even snarls, “You have no idea how far I’ll go,” while fending off an actual gremlin just before climbing upside down on the outside of a plane while under attack by human enemy combatants. It’s a lot. There is no getting around the fact that Shadow In The Cloud is pure fantasy. Her words are Liang’s own. We have no idea how far she will go, and that is the genius of the movie. We are always right on the razor’s edge between plausible wish-fulfillment and outright insanity. That precarious balance isn’t always achieved, but who cares? The 80’s inspired synth-heavy soundtrack is heavy on rebellious spirit and witchy womanhood. It grounds Shadow In The Cloud in a female Rocky place of lady power and kickassery. It is what Wonder Woman 1984 wants to be.
The first half of the film takes place in this confined space. The men’s disembodied voices taunt Maude from the radio. It is a tense, claustrophobic opening that never feels boring. Liang introduces the dangers of entitled men, enemy soldiers, and actual monsters with deftness. It somehow all fits together in a miasmic orgy of feminine satisfaction. Speaking of the gremlins themselves, they are five-foot tall dragon bats that are hell-bent on destroying the plane. The gremlins are winged, clawed, needle-toothed nasties that are as unbelievable as they are destructive. Captain Maude is no more intimidated by them than she is by flying bullets or abusive men. Over the course of the movie, we learn why Maude is so non plussed by the beasts. She’s been through a lot and isn’t taking it anymore.
You would think with a title like Shadow In The Cloud; there would be subtly employed in showing the gremlins and the mystery of why Captain Maude is on the plane. You would think that until you saw the trailer. The movie delivers on the promise the trailer teases. This is unbridled insanity. Ignore your internal credibility radar and enjoy the ride. Liang’s movie is a high wire act of estrogen and bat wings. Moretz gives a gusty, fully committed performance that sells the movie even when the proverbial and literal wheels come off. It’s a white-knuckled good time that will leave a smile on your face and a thump in your chest. It is precisely the kind of fun we need right now. Shadow In The Cloud is out on January 1st, 2021, in theaters and everywhere you stream movies.
As the TV/Streaming Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre tv. I grew up with old school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. When I’m not watching and writing about my favorite movies and series, I’m introducing my family to the wonderful world of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror. My only regret, there is not enough time in the day to watch everything.