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Live Review - IN THE SHADOW IT WAITS

in the shadow it waits review
A horror movie performed live!


Review by Sue Finn

Directed by: Michael Beets

Starring: Vessela Karadjova, Eddie Orton, Robert Pham, Naomi Plucke, Nalani Wakita, S.C. Wilson

in the shadow it waits poster

When the Coronavirus lockdown was announced across the world in March, many of us decided it was a great time to take care of that ‘watchlist’; but, for Australian filmmaker/virtual reality artist Michael Beets, it was an opportunity.

They say adversity brings out the best and worst in people, and if this exercise is anything to go by, Beets and his talented cast of performers certainly embody the former.

The press release accompanying this film reads as follows - "A horror film performed live and edited in real-time with actors performing from their own homes in different states across Australia. The audience is witnessing a film being made as they're watching it."

Well colour me intrigued!


in the shadow it waits review

I was well up for watching the world premiere of this ground-breaking film and so awaited its launch with my link and password ready.

Opening on a conference call between four of the characters, who are working from home, we get to know them through their banter. Pat (Robert Pham) is leading the call with his co-workers; cool as a cucumber Jules (Vessela Karadjova), spirited Hanna (Nalani Wakiti) and secret crush Meg (Naomi Plucke). They decide to break for lunch and while this involves different activities for each of them, Meg does some Internet surfing and comes across a list of Internet myths and legends. She finds herself intrigued by a character called Billy and clicks on its website www.billybillybilly.net for a laugh. She plays the game she finds there and forwards the link to her friends, but her game playing has serious consequences in the first scare of the night.

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When the group come back online and see Meg is missing, her absence is brushed aside by all but Pat, who senses something is wrong; he spends the evening trying to contact her to no avail.

Later we are introduced to Hanna’s boyfriend, muscle-head Jace (charismatic Eddie Orton) and her yoga instructor mungbeans-and-love room-mate Steve O (S.C. Wilson). There’s clearly a love triangle going on here, the forced separation frustrating the couple and leading to all sorts of behaviours that perhaps might not usually be entertained.


in the shadow it waits review

We also see Jules having a crisis of identity, dining alone and taking endless selfies that only add to her self-doubt.

Meanwhile, Meg is still missing, Pat seems to have cabin fever, and there are strange looming shadows and lurking shapes seemingly in all of their homes.

There are many things to admire about this film, even aside from the trailblazing way it came into fruition.

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Firstly the script. At a brisk 45-minutes this movie still succeeds at packing in more character development than expected. It also manages to suck you in and then just tighten its grip on your senses. I must say that watching it alone in your own home with the lights out only adds to the intimacy of the story. The ideas behind Billy itself are innovative and stimulating - it’s easy to imagine playing the game yourself. This script features elements from The Ring, Us and The Grudge and it’s a winning combination.

The look of the film is deliberately overcast. For a film with ‘shadow’ in the title it sure knows how to use shadows to its full advantage. Credit for this certainly must go to cinematographer Viktor Wallmark, who seemingly rose to the challenge of lighting four separate suburban homes across different states without even setting foot in them. The actors themselves were their own crew, setting up the lighting and cameras as instructed via earpieces worn throughout the performances.


in the shadow it waits review

Director Beets has said this has been a very collaborative affair but the monumental task of editing live in-camera using software he’d learnt to use over two weeks and after only a scant two months of rehearsal was all down to his jaw-dropping skill. If I hadn’t known this was live I would never have believed it. In fact I doubted it several times throughout the film, as it was all so seamless. Beets said that the very infrequent manual effects had been pre-recorded (essentially 5% of the film) but the way that was integrated into the film so smoothly is yet another thing to be impressed by. The fact that it was achieved on a reported budget of just $200 is astounding.

In the Shadow It Waits is timely and effective with an excellent use of music and lighting; it also works as a horror film and is genuinely unsettling.

This is a triumph for all concerned and it's certainly telling that I want to watch it again. I immediately recommended it to my friends.

Impressive.

In the Shadow It Waits is performing live until June 13th. Visit intheshadowitwaits.eventbrite.com.au for details.