‘Shed’ Sandwich

by Warren Cantrell on November 14, 2019

in Print Reviews,Reviews

[Rating: Minor Rock Fist Down]

A solid performance by a talented young lead can’t quite save The Shed, a low-budget vampire thriller that bites off (sucks out?) a bit more than it can handle. The story of a teenager who happens upon a monster living in the shed in his backyard, the movie plays with some interesting ideas, intersecting coming of age genre tropes with a classic horror set-up. Writer/director Frank Sabatella puts one or two too many balls in the air with all of this, however, fumbling a good set-up with some well-meaning yet poorly executed script maneuvers.    

After a quick cold-open to tease the big bad of the picture, The Shed introduces its audience to teenage orphan Stan (Jay Jay Warren), who lives with his Marine grandfather (Timothy Bottoms) in small town U.S.A. An off-screen tragedy took Stan’s patents some time before the events of the film, and that trauma has turned the young man into something of an outcast. A frequent target of the local cops as well as his school’s bullies, Stan does his best to keep his head down and his nose clean.

When Stan hears something from his backyard shed one afternoon, he learns through bloody trial and error that there’s a ravenous, bloodthirsty creature inside of it. Possessed of immense strength, yet deathly allergic to sunlight, Stan concludes that he’s dealing with a vampire. This is where The Shed takes the first of several curious turns, however, as Stan decides not to call the police, or knock down a sun-facing wall of the ramshackle refuge, but to instead chain the shed up tight. Certain that he’ll just get thrown into juvenile detention if someone finds out what’s going on, Stan elects to just wait the problem out.

Odd as this decision is, stranger still is the script’s detour at this point to delve into a side plot about Stan’s best friend, Dommer (Cody Kostro), who is one ass-kicking away from snapping, a-la Columbine. A beef Stan and Dommer have with the school’s head bully, Marble (Chris Petrovski), intersects with a hastily assembled romantic detour that adds yet another character, Roxy (Sofia Happonen), for no discernable purpose except to put more dead meat on the monster menu. And while the mixing of genres does produce some interesting results vis a vis the unspoken metaphor of an angst monster chained up inside the heart of every teenager, the script doesn’t do too much with this.

Bumpy at times yet stitched together by the good work of Warren as the beleaguered hero, The Shed has more ideas than it knows what to do with as the second act winds down. Dommers’ B-plot with the bullies threatens to overtake the main thrust of the narrative at one point, only to skip along after the diversion almost as if it had never happened. All of it circles the vampire in Stan’s shed, which is indeed an interesting premise, yet keeps getting lost in the garbled mess of these side stories.

And then there’s the vampire itself. The design of the creature is inconsistent and somewhat confusing, bouncing between a Nosferatu-esque look and something more akin to a zombie. Some key props that appear near the end of The Shed, like a felling hatchet and double-barreled shotgun, hint at a nod towards the Evil Dead universe, and the design of The Shed creature is reminiscent of that, but Raimi’s “Deadite” creatures were decidedly not vampires. So what’s going on, here? The script doesn’t clarify much, busy as it is stuffing awkward, clunky dialogue into the mouths of good actors who are obviously struggling to sell all of this.  

Failing to set up even a baseline for the film’s mythology might have been forgivable had Sabatella stuck the landing for his climax, but alas, The Shed is at its weakest in its final act. The action is poorly paced, sloppily staged, and is capped off by a crescendo that can only be described as a marriage of the tedious and absurd. By this point in the film, several dream sequence fake-outs have also occurred, thereby removing the tension of some very important scenes that might otherwise work had the script not trained the audience to keep its guard down.

Mercifully, the actors are all doing a decent job throughout The Shed, with Warren and Kostro the standouts among the bunch. What’s more, the film leans hard into its hard R-rating, so there’s no shortage of gore by way of a few genuinely fun kills that are both creative and well-placed. The story is reaching for more than it can manage with the B-plots and over-arching themes, however, complicating a set-up the script can’t quite handle. Indeed, vampires and vampire stories have been fumbled in a more embarrassing fashion than what’s found in The Shed, but few had as much promise as what’s squandered here.

“Obvious Child” is the debut novel of Warren Cantrell, a film and music critic based out of Seattle, Washington. Mr. Cantrell has covered the Sundance and Seattle International Film Festivals, and provides regular dispatches for Scene-Stealers and The Playlist. Warren holds a B.A. and M.A. in History, and his hobbies include bourbon drinking, novel writing, and full-contact kickboxing.

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