"Shallow Ground" (IMDb listing) opens with a naked boy (Rocky Marquette), covered head-to-toe in blood and wielding a hunting knife, walking quickly through the forest to a remote sheriff's station. The station is being packed up by its deputies Stuart Dempsey, played by Stan Kirsch ("Highlander the Series"), and Laura Russell, played by Lindsey Stoddart ("Scrubs"), in preparation of the new dam that will soon flood -- though not in this movie -- the entire area, including the local town. The boy is, of course, received by the deputies at gunpoint and quickly handcuffed to a chair in the absent sheriff's office. The sheriff (Timothy Murphy), plagued by guilt over the disappearance and presumed murder of a local girl exactly one year ago, is busy having nightmares in his cabin, until one of the deputies goes to get him. The officers call the local EMT to do an analysis of the blood on the boy -- a point that never quite makes sense because the EMT says she doesn't have the training or the equipment to distinguish animal versus human blood, let alone justify her ultimate conclusion that there were at least three separate types of human blood on the boy. Uh ... okay. Things get creepier as people begin having visions after touching the boy and/or the blood that flows from his every orifice. One by one many of our lead characters go missing, are kidnapped or meet their makers.
The remote setting and gallons of blood seem reminiscent of 2002's "Cabin Fever." Like "Cabin," this film has one-dimensional characters that are difficult to find any connection with. Here, though, any character development is done through annoying flash backs or long, over-done reminiscing between the characters (often accompanied by flash backs). The naked boy is, in fact, the only character we care about at all. Mostly because, well, he's naked, there's blood, and he's creepy.
Then there's the whole stretched faces and body-parts-on-fishing-hooks-and-string scenario. What's with all the sewn skin bits these days? It had some plot relevance in "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" (the original ... I won't mention the remake) and even in the more recent "Jeepers Creepers." But here, there seems to be no real explanation for it other than the director/writer Sheldon Wilson wanted to add some fancy special makeup effects to distract from the plot holes, of which there are many.
Did I mention there are a lot of holes in this story? Seriously. There are. Like how could the sheriff's girlfriend/deputy handcuff the boy to the chair without touching him and having a vision? Why the heck was there a second bloody naked boy in the city? The whole impending-flood-from-the-dam thing seemed to account for the first boy, but what raised the second boy and why was he in the city? If the main killer was going after people somehow related to the dam, why go after the EMT? Why was the sheriff fighting a spotty Irish accent? Why was the town moving residents, with seemingly no personal possessions of any kind, out on school busses? And on and on.
The questions and inconsistencies are almost distracting enough to get you to turn it off, but the goopy, drippy, bloody naked boy keeps you watching. Not really caring, but watching. The best part of the film involves one of those pesky school buses and a lot of blood. I had the "Wheels on the Bus" song in my head for a while after that.
When the end finally comes, none of it is surprising or new. The only thing that provides any interest is, again, the bloody boy and the special effects the director throws in when the boy exacts his revenge. The final minutes of the movie are completely incomprehensible. Why did they ... who was ... huh? Just when you've found some mild satisfaction of making it through the film, seeing the not-even-remotely-surprising reveal of the killer and the ultimate "justice" that is meted out, the director adds in a few minor details (or omissions perhaps) and one major "twist" that leaves you frustrated and annoyed that you sat through the whole thing.
The "making-of" extra on the DVD provides some perspective on how hard the director worked to make this movie on a shoestring budget -- it's a story that's way more interesting than the movie itself. Despite wanting to give the writer/director major points for effort, you don't feel any better about investing an hour and 37 minutes into the film.
Filmfodder Grade: D+