Triskaidekafiles is a love letter to cheesy cinema from the 80s and 90s, with the occasional dip into other eras.  if you're a fan of MST3K, Elvira, Joe Bob Briggs, or just bad horror movies in general, Trisk is the place for you.

Shadowzone (1990)


WRITER: J.S. Cardone

DIRECTOR: J.S. Cardone

STARRING: David Beecroft as Captain Hickock
    James Hong as Van Fleet
    Shawn Weatherly as Kidwell
    Miguel Nunez as Wiley    
    Lu Leonard as Cutter
    Frederick Flynn as Shivers
    Louise Fletcher as Dr. Erhart

QUICK CUT: A team in an isolated base are beset upon by a shapechanging creature not of this Earth.


    Hickcock -

    Erhart -

    Kidwell -

    Van Fleet -

    Shivers -

    Wiley -

Presented for your approval...

Presented for your approval...

THE GUTS: Welcome back, Triskelions!  This week, I noticed an oncoming trend.  The next batch of reviews all seem to be falling into an unintentional loose theme; science gone wild.  I didn't mean to do this, but I'm gonna roll with it, and enjoy the weirdness!  Things will get kicked off right here and now with Shadowzone!

This is another great Full Moon schlockfest, but here's some backstory.  I've mentioned a few times that my brother-in-law was frustrated with me being scared of horror movies, and forced me to watch one a day for an entire week.  This both traumatised me further, and started me down the road to where I am now.  Was it cruel?  Maybe.  But I survived.  I do not recommend nor condone this tactic, however.

Anyways, Shadowzone was one of the first ones he chose, and...I do not remember a lick of it.  Not one.  Single.  Moment.  I remember it freaking me out and messing me up, but I don't remember why.  And uh, after watching it?  Still not sure!  So now that I've set this up as one of my own personal boogeymen, let's see how things go from here.

My name is Jason grey and welcome to Jackass...Flats.

My name is Jason grey and welcome to Jackass...Flats.

We start off with a Captain Hickock arriving in the middle of nowhere at a secret underground research facility, to investigate a death there.  He gets picked up by the base's handyman or whatever, Shivers.

As he arrives to the dilapidated facility, running into disrepair with such a short staff, Hickock meets Dr. Erheart, who works as Doctor Forrester's assitant here in Deep wait, that's Mystery Science Theatre.  She works for Doctor Van Fleet, and Project Shadowzone.

They all grab a bite to eat, and voice concerns about how long this will take, because Shadowzone is at an important and delicate phase.  But we also meet lunch lady Doris, or as they call her here, Cutter.  She's fed up with Shivers not getting rid of the rats, and serves him up one for dessert as a reminder to do his job.

Awww rats.

Awww rats.

We tour the facility a bit more and meet Doctor Kidwell, a pretty young love int...scientist working with animals, although they're more like pets in these waning days of the base.

Finally, Hickock checks out the dead body he's there to be checking out, and he's a bit taken aback by it, since the guy is already sliced open and autopsied.  I find it interesting that Hickcock has a bit of a weak stomach.  Boy, are you in the wrong movie, pal.  And not that this ever goes anywhere, but I like the character note.

Oh, there's also a precocious monkey called Bingo who is an adorable little plot point that runs through the movie, and he's just sitting there poking at the corpse.

You eat my brains, I eat yours!

You eat my brains, I eat yours!

The dead body appears to have died by a stroke, and they try to make Hickcock think it has nothing to do with the project, because of course it doesn't.

Finally, we meet the last of our canon fodder, Wiley the tech guy communications specialist engineer type person, and Doctor Van Fleet.  Who is played by James Hong, doing a German accent over his natural one.  Which sounds WEIRD and wrong and weird.

Van Fleet shows off Project Shadowzone, which seems to be all about putting people into extended deep sleep, for as yet unexplained reasons, but it involves severing the connection, electronically, to the brain stem.  And nope, this has absolutely nothing to do with the main whose brain exploded!  Impossible!

People experiencing Shadowzone in the first three rows may experience splashing.

People experiencing Shadowzone in the first three rows may experience splashing.

The doctor agrees to turn over their data so Hickock can be sure, then when he's alone with Wiley, they talk about if that's a good idea.  Don't worry, it will keep him from sniffing around, and mwahahaha, there's something sinister going on.

Hickcock gets woken up that night by Shivers, and told there's something he needs to see.  He's taken to an air vent, crawls through it like he's freakin' Die Hard, and ends up spying on the autopsy room, as a naked James Hong (save for a rubber smock for protection) and Erhart pull out the heart of the female experimentee, and offer it to the captain, who thought he was safe and hidden.

Aaaand then he wakes up BECAUSE IT WAS ALL A DREAM.  Sigh.  That was just useless padding to give us a fright.  BUT, I do like this one, because it does sell the idea that Hickcock is freaked out by this place, and it does incorporate a lot of things that we had seen and heard thus far, so it does work as a dream

I left my heart at Project Shadowzone

I left my heart at Project Shadowzone

Unfortunately for Project Shadowzone, Hickorydoc is more tech savvy than they thought, he has a general understanding of the data, and is having Wiley recreate it with one of the test subjects.  They try and talk him out of it while also saying it's COMPLETELT SAFE AND UNRELATED!  One of these things is not like the other...

While Hickman heads down to the pods to observe, the doctors worry about what they're doing, but play things safe, only going near the extreme deep sleep level that they were at with the dead guy.  But Hickcock is still too smart for them, and demands they go all the way.

They freak out, since they know this did cause the 'stroke' and debate if they can pull it off, for a quick look, and decide to give it a shot, to hopefully satisfy the captain's curiosity and end his investigation.

Arsenio Hall!

Arsenio Hall!

So everyone stands there and watch as a counter counts down to "Level 31F" and this is a whole lotta tension for a whole lotta nothin' going on.

Knowing what might be coming, the rest of the team calls Kidwell out of the room, so they know she'll be safe.  At least if things go catastrophically wrong, they're not worried about murdering a soldier for it.

We continue staring at nothing happening for a very long time the scientists continue to worry, but finally Hickock is satisfied and leaves the chamber.

Is this really necessary for the experiment?

Is this really necessary for the experiment?

But then they get some weird computer stuff, and it tells them the source of the interference is "John Doe."  Van Fleet gets a serious look on his face and is asked, "What does it mean?"  "It's coming out of the darkness..."  Well okay but...what DOES THAT MEAN??

Alarms start going off as the subject's vitals spike through the roof, and everyone panics.  Weird lights flicker behind grates, the whole base shakes, and pipes burst open.

Meanwhile, the test subject is getting all veiny and OH SHIT HEAD EXPLOSION.

This is absolutely mind blowing.

This is absolutely mind blowing.

To be fair, that is a solid way to end your first act.  The other pod is malfunctioning, and they can't wake the girl up, but they hook her up to a portable unit and wheel her out of the lab - COMPLETE WITH JIGGLING HER NAKED BREASTS - which is now covered in toxic fumes from the quake.

Wiley starts picking up a fifth lifeform on the heat sensors, and we have gone full on Alien now, haven't we?  The system again claims this is "John Doe" and Van Fleet locks the others out, while he investigates the strangeness.

Hickcock is frustrated, wants to know who John Doe is, and look, I know it lasted for only one season, but John Doe is the Phoenix!  Sigh, if only Dominic Purcell would appear in this...

Van Fleet can't seem to see the other whatever, but then he suddenly hears a voice, and is attacked by a freaky looking lumpy thing and killed.

You fell out the ugly tree and hit every branch.

You fell out the ugly tree and hit every branch.

So now that some people have started dying, it's time to come clean, and Erhart explains what's going on with their experiments.  They are taking people into so many levels of a deeper sleep than normal, and for some reason, the brain begins acting like a radio tuner.  It seems that they have discovered that the sleeping brain at that level exists and interacts with a parallel dimension, and sometimes we wake up from sleep as a natural defense from creatures in this realm.

Oh holy potatoes, that's the Dreamscape.  They're fighting Cobweb!  These are literal nightmares!  Quick, call in Sleepwalker!

And somehow, this interaction has opened up a portal and let loose the creature into our world.  Oh, and bonus, whatever it is, is slightly radioactive, which is keeping the base locked down, and they can't communicate with the outside world thanks to the damage.

But wait, there's more!  The analysis of the creature shows it can shift its size and mass into whatever it wants at will.  So, now we're The Thing.

Hickcock takes command of the situation, bonus of being a soldier, and formulates a plan.  Some of them go to fix the generator to get the air circulating again before that kills them, and Shivers and Kidwell go to get Cutter, as well as food and water.

Shivers arms up, but as the pair head to the kitchen, Kidwell hears Bingo the monkey screeching and goes to find him.  And already we're splitting up and going solo.

We get way too concerned with a missing monkey at this point, as multiple people try to find Bingo.  This feels like more padding.  This movie has enough going on already, without a monkeyquest.

Meanwhile, Cutter is getting food ready, hears another rat get snapped in a trap, and when she resets it, something in the wall grabs her and finds her arm mighty tasty, before bursting out of the walls to get her.

Uh oh, looks like you've got

Uh oh, looks like you've got

Kidwell finds Bingo, while Hickory Smoked Bacon and Wiley Coyote get the generator running...for all of two seconds and it fails again, for good this time.

Shivers makes his way back to the kitchen, completely misses the corpse there, and when Kidwell tells Shivers she found Bingo...hello, nonsense sentence, he informs her that noooo, he's in the kitchen.

Kidwell turns around to look at her Bingo and is attacked by a misshapen monkey creature wannabe.  Looks like BOTH Bingos are eating tonight!



Everyone comes running at Kidwell's screams, but Shivers first finds Cutter's half eaten corpse and runs off in a panic.  He continues to live up to his name sneaking nervously through the halls, until some water dribbles on him from above.  He freaks the squawk out, and shoots in every direction he can, with the unlimited ammo his shotgun would seem to have.  All he does is further damage the walls, but at least we can be certain that those walls will never threaten anyone ever again.

Wiley and Hicky come running at all the gunfire, but by the time they arrive, Shivers is nothing more than a puddle.  The captain pulls a Doctor Who and suggests they run, and they head back to the elevators, which aren't working.  They build up some tension trying to get it rewired, and Wiley tries to get in before the door shuts, but doesn't make it, becoming John Doe's next piece of lunch.

This movie just mowed through like, three quarters of its entire cast in 20 minutes.  At this point, all we're left with are Hickman, Erhart, and Coma Girl.  That's ballsy and wonderful.

There's more to this script, right?  No??  Okay...

There's more to this script, right?  No??  Okay...

Hickler arrives back at the room they're hiding out in, and Erhart has figured out that this creature is assuming forms based on human thoughts, what they're looking for, and their worst fears.  I love that it is a literal living nightmare.

Erhart then notices someone is interfacing with the computers, and she's been locked out, all thanks to John Doe.  Hickman wonders what it wants, and hey!  Let's just ask it!

So...she does.  And all it wants is to go home.  Yeah, okay, fine.  I'll just grab my Imaginator and open up a portal to the Dreamscape.

It wants to go home, because our universe is inhospitable to it, but it's not gonna die fast enough because reasons.  So they decide to make a deal with it, using the girl to open a portal.  And sure, fine, they don't really have much choice.  They have to get home, and the humans want to live, so might as well.

The lab is now conveniently safe to enter, and they start putting their plan in action to get this creature out of our universe.

Watch out for Evil Otto!

Watch out for Evil Otto!

We get a lot of staring at computer screens, a bunch of technobabble that will hopefully save the girl's brain from exploding when the portal opens, and mmmm!  I sure do love when my horror movies climax with the creature out of sight, and people monitoring vitals!

John Doe books it through the portal, and Erhart declares, I need to see this up close!  No!  NO you most certainly do not!  It's gone, close the portal, go home!  Job done!

She stares at the sliver of portal cutting through the air, grabs a pipe and pokes it into the hole, and then it gets yanked through.

Quit throwing your garbage into your universe.

Quit throwing your garbage into your universe.

As if that wasn't enough, Erhart decides sure, let's go through the portal ourselves!  I'm sure that will end well.  I mean, our universe couldn't support that creature, so I should be FINE!

She comes back out, covered in sparks, and tries to shout something excitedly with her science boner, but is cut short as she suddenly gets her pipe back...through the stomach.

We see the creature, as fully as we ever see it, as it squawks something happily, and drags the woman back to its dimension.  You liked it so much, you can stay forever!

And that's pretty much it...oh, the test subject survived and Hickcock is smitten with her, if anyone cares.




Video: It's a little grey and washed out, but it's not *terrible* especially for what it is, a direct to video release from 1990.

Audio: It sounds just fine.

Body Count: Well, it kills almost every damned person, so that's great!

0 - Man dead when we get there.
1 - 30:45 and there's a headsplosion!
2 - Van Fleet dies in a Pip attack
3 - Cutter dies by a rat of unusual size.
4 - Kidwell gets eaten by bad monkey
5 - Shivers dies off camera
6 - Wiley gets turned into strawberry jam
7 - And finally Erhart gets piped

Best Corpse: So many off camera deaths, really.  But that headsplosion wins me over.

Blood Type - C+: There are some good puddles, and I give a LOT of points to that creature design.  It's unique and icky, and probably is one thing that fucked me up as a kid.

Sex Appeal: Jeeze, but that test subject is naked the ENTIRE TIME and everyone falls in love with her, including THE CREATURE!  And lots of linger shots.  But to be fair, you also get to see the dude's dong.  It's actually really really creepy how Hickcock obsesses with this girl he has NEVER MET, for the sole reason of seeing her boobs.  If they wanted an emotional connection, they should have made her an ex, or his sister, and that would even be a reason for why HE SPECIFICALLY came to investigate.

Drink Up! Every time you see boobs.

Video Nasties: Oh have fun with Shivers' freakout blasting the walls to hell.

Movie Review: Sure, this is The Thing and Alien with the serial numbers files off, but I gotta say, I actually like this movie?  It takes a bit to get going, but when it does, it goes from 0 to 80 in three seconds, and leaves you covered in bodies.  It has some great unique ideas with the Shadowzone and dream creatures, and that is a lot of great stuff, and they make the most of it.  For a direct to video B movie like this, it is a LOT of fun, and the story is solid enough.  Four out of five sleep pods.

Entertainment Value: It's got all the low budget cheese you expect from a Full Moon feature, it's got some hammy acting that's great.  The deaths and effects are lots of fun.  James Hong as a German complete with accent is baffling and hilarious, and he's clearly the best actor in this.  Super fun bad movie, four out of five dead rats.