One of my absolute least favorite movies of last year was "Bitch Slap." A film that professed to be a tribute to old school exploitation movies with hot women, the film itself was chaotic, stupid, loud, obnoxious, etc. It also tried to do something that's impossible to do-it tried to recreate the experience of watching old exploitation and Grindhouse movies. Even movies I love like "Grindhouse" tried to do so, and couldn't. The reason for that is because those movies were very much a thing of their time, and that's what's so fascinating about them. You can't recreate movies like "Death Game", "Turkey Shoot" and "Nightmare City", no matter how hard you try. Yet, the likes of "Bitch Slap", "Blood Moon Rising", "The Bleeding" and "Hard Ride to Hell" keep trying. While 2006's "Shadow: Dead Riot" is better than those movies, it still fails in what it tries to accomplish-among other things.
Years ago, notorious murderer and rapist Shadow (Tony Todd) is executed in prison, though his practicing of the black arts leads to him exploding, his blood causing chaos and other bad mojo occurring. Years later, Solitaire (Carla Green) goes to the old prison, now for women, and she's not to be messed with, because she knows martial arts, and can kick ass. She also has something of a link to Shadow, and what do you know, he comes back with an army of flesh hungry zombies. Also, Dr. Swann (Michael Quinlann) has been using Shadow's blood for some gnarly experiments.
A film that tries to mix elements of martial arts, women and prison and Italian zombie movies, "Shadow" is something of a mess. To be fair, the make-up and gore effects are great, the female nudity as ample, a few performances (namely Erin Brown, who brings an element of sympathy to her role as a passed around prisoner) that hit the mark, and the direction and fight choreography are all great. However, the whole thing tries way too hard. There are too many nods-both visual ("Burial Ground", "Cannibal Holocaust" and "Zombi 2" are among the films given tribute) and verbal (Dr. Swann? Elsa Thorn? Really?) nods to classic exploitation fair that it gets really annoying after awhile. Plus, it's attempts at trying to recapture the feeling of those movies rings hollow. I'm sorry, but all the gratuitous, sex, gore and lesbian shower scenes in the world aren't going to fool me.
Also, while a few performances work, most don't. Carla Green is too bland as our heroine, spouting bad one liners and like most of the cast seems more like she's rehearsing for a movie than they are acting. Then there's Shadow himself. While Todd does a fine job as the villain, he looks too goofy to be threatening. Here's a guy with dreadlocks and sharpened teeth. That doesn't look like something that should strike fear into a viewers heart. That looks like a satanic Lee "Scratch" Perry or some guy you'd see at an Insane Clown Posse concert.
To be honest, if it had been made in Italy in the early 80's, I'd probably be more forgiving to this movie. In this case I'd rather watch the real deal instead of a well meaning but ultimately uneven tribute.