The Movie Waffler New to VOD - SHADOW IN THE CLOUD | The Movie Waffler


shadow in the cloud review
A WWII bomber plane is attacked by a strange creature.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Roseanne Liang

Starring: Chloë Grace Moretz, Nick Robinson, Beulah Koale, Taylor John Smith, Callan Mulvey, Benedict Wall, Joe Witkowski, Byron Coll

Shadow in the Cloud poster

Mention Gremlins today and you'll likely think of Joe Dante's 1984 blockbuster. The origin of the mythical creatures goes back to the 1920s however, when RAF pilots invented the label to describe creatures that they blamed for the malfunctioning of their planes. The concept of Gremlins really took off in WWII following the publication of Roald Dahl's novel 'The Gremlins', a story of miniature creatures dismantling RAF planes. The lore spread to American pilots and the Gremlin instantly became a staple of popular culture.

Prior to Dante's film, the most notable screen appearance of a Gremlin came in the Richard Donner directed 1963 Twilight Zone episode 'Nightmare at 20,000 Feet', in which William Shatner plays an airline passenger who witnesses a Gremlin attempting to foil one of the plane's engines (the episode was remade for 1983's Twilight Zone: The Movie).

Shadow in the Cloud review

With Shadow in the Cloud, director Roseanne Liang borrows the setup of 'Nightmare at 20,000 Feet' and takes us back to the aerial campaign of WWII. Following a fake propaganda short instructing air crews to be on the lookout for Gremlins, we're introduced to our heroine, British Flight Officer Maude Garrett (Chloë Grace Moretz), who joins the multi-national crew of a B-17 Flying Fortress taking off from a New Zealand airstrip. Maude carries a suspicious piece of luggage, which she is reluctant to part with, instructing gunner Quaid (Taylor John Smith) to ensure it remains upright.

Not wanting a woman getting in the way of their mission, the men stuff Maude into the gun turret in the plane's belly. Initially Maude simply has to contend with the good old-fashioned sexism of the bomber crew, but when communications are cut she finds herself left to deal with a greater threat - a Gremlin on the plane's wing!

Shadow in the Cloud review

For roughly its first half, Shadow in the Cloud plays out in the fashion of single-hander movies like Buried and Locke, with Moretz the only face on screen as she communicates via radio with the rest of the crew. Moretz may look unfeasibly fresh-faced for the role of an RAF officer, but her expressive features go a long way to keeping us engaged in her plight. As the plot unspools, it becomes clear that Maude may not be whom she claims, and that she may even pose a threat to the crew. Liang's clever direction in a confined space and Moretz's performance help create an air of claustrophobic paranoia.

It's when the turret hatch is prised open and Maude is given free rein of the plane (both inside and outside) that turbulence begins to set in to Shadow in the Cloud. Gone is the taut buildup of tension, replaced by laughably over the top set-pieces that rely on unconvincing CG. The Gremlin itself becomes something of a secondary threat as Japanese fighter planes make an appearance and the contents of Maude's luggage is revealed. Ill-fitting soundtrack cues make the action seem even more silly, and we quickly realise the film has given up any pretense of taking its far-fetched premise seriously - so why should we?

Shadow in the Cloud review

It's in the messy final act that Shadow in the Cloud runs into the problem of wanting its cake and eating it in terms of its heroine. In recent years we've seen a desire for "strong female leads", but too many filmmakers take that to mean literal physical strength rather than character traits like resolve, passion, determination etc. A "strong" lead doesn't work in the horror genre, where vulnerability is key, and so when Maude turns into Wonder Woman, hanging off an upside down plane and getting into a sparring match with the Gremlin, any engagement we had with her plight is erased.

Taken out of context, the first half of Shadow in the Cloud resembles a fun instalment of an Amazing Stories type anthology series. There's a rip-roaring 40-minute yarn here, but unfortunately Shadow in the Cloud follows it up with another 43 minutes of eye-rolling nonsense.

Shadow in the Cloud
is on UK/ROI VOD now.