A hunter (Frank Whaley), out looking for a predator in the woods, gets more than he bargained for as he ends up being pursued, and then bitten, by a vampire. With the sun on the rise, the hunter takes refuge in the nearest safe place he can find, which is a shed on the property of Ellis (Timothy Bottoms), who is the somewhat abusive guardian of wayward grandson Stan (Jay Jay Warren),
Stan, already in trouble with the law for his previous behaviour, tries to keep the police out of matters by attempting to cope with the bloodsucker alone in addition to dealing with object of his affection Roxy (Sofia Happonen) and bullied high school friend Dommer (Cody Kostro). This probably isn’t going to go well…
With as much of a focus on home and high school issues as it has on the violent bloodsucker holed up in the outhouse, The Shed does at least attempt to mix in a healthy dose of teen drama to its vamp staples of neck chomping and sunlight swerving. There’s even the odd limb ripped off in a pleasingly startling way, as well as yet another family pet meeting a particularly nauseating end in a depressingly predictable way. could movies stop murdering animals to up the kill count, please? Thank you.
The fact there’s a fair number of things right with The Shed only serves to make what’s wrong with it all the more glaring. Let’s start with the positives, most notably the performances, which are generally good. Jay Jay Warren is excellent in the lead and even though he’s one of today’s “troubled” youth he’s not the main focus of the bullying going on. Well, at least not once his grandfather’s gone charging into the shed, which is immediately established as being an awfully bad idea.
In fact, in the high school environment, Stan is very much the protector of Dommer, who’s the one almost constantly harassed by resident knife-wielding douchebag Marble (nicely played by Chris Petrovski). Having the bullying happen to a supporting character is a neat touch rather than piling all of the issues on to our hero, who for once can take care of himself even though battling the fanged undead might be a little out of his comfort zone.
His previous run-ins with the law attract the attention of local Sheriff Dorney (Siobhan Fallon Hogan) but again this doesn’t quite play to type. Dorney doesn’t come across as the typical hard ass out to give the boy from Juvie a tough time. She’s blunt but also kind and understanding, even when she’s increasingly suspicious of Stan’s possible involvement with the weird events taking place in her town.
Having most of the bloodier action take place around the shed does limit the suspense in terms of the kills, it has to be said. It’s generally a case of someone being warned not to go near the shed or not to be dumb enough to actually go in the shed followed by them being pulled into the shadows and devoured off-camera. There is an attempt to inject some variety into the proceedings even within those parameters but when any potential victim has to get close to a particular patch of land to be in danger it’s their general bloody-mindedness of plain ignorance rather than diabolical vampire scheming that lands them on the menu.
It’s the inconsistencies that put something of a drain on the film’s lifeblood. Straight off the bat, we’re treated to a terrific-looking, not to mention lethal, creature of the night that gives Whaley’s character the run around before closing in on him with ruthless efficiency, only to be thwarted mid-drink by the fastest sunrise ever, turning the poor bugger into ash in the blink of an eye. I didn’t buy either the super-speed break of dawn or the epic miscalculation of such an otherworldly killing machine. It doesn’t come across as a dramatic rug pull, it just seems utterly ridiculous, even in the context of what’s going on.
This, of course, leaves Whaley about to turn and desperately needing to get out of the daylight, which leads to a couple of smoky effects à la Near Dark, but the blanket he grabs is questionable in its ability to prevent him becoming an instant human fireball. Still, he has to make it to safety in order for the remainder of The Shed to exist so there’s the required suspension of disbelief and then some in the opening stanza.
As the monster in the closet, no, shed, Frank Whaley gives an enjoyable performance. His screen time is restricted but the film gets the most out of what I assume were few days on set. The thrust of the plot doesn’t require the menace to be seen for a lot of the time until the climax, which sees Stan, Roxy and an unwitting cohort of Marble’s taking on Whaley after fortifying Stan’s place. Considering the rickety old shed has proved a difficult place from which to escape over the previous few days, the demon’s obviously had enough of being in there once the film’s hit the 70-odd minute mark and breaks out.
The eventual face-off, though gory in its exclamation point, is also disappointingly suspenseless, being drawn out for far too long and throwing in a couple of obligatory fake scares before getting down to the final fight itself. The villain of the piece suffers from that old Achilles heel of being able to execute his victims in a split second unless they happen to come across the main guy or his love interest, at which point they inexplicably decide to throw them around rather than finish them off.
The Shed is an odd construction. Its take on high school isn’t ground-breaking but it does approach the subject from an interesting angle and the Dommer subplot is intriguing before it’s frustratingly thrown away, just as it looked as it was about to be going somewhere different and more sinister. It also includes far too many jolts that turn out to be dreams.
Outside of that, there’s a jump scare involving the sudden appearance of a face which is used half a dozen times in the opening hour. The first time it happens. It’s good, it got me even though I was waiting for it. The second and third time, I was over it. After that, I was pleading with the movie to either cut it out or give me a different jump scare.
Watchable, certainly, but I was left wondering what it could have been.
Signature Entertainment presents The Shed on Digital HD from May 11th