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In all honesty, I can say I wasn't expect much when I popped Bram Stoker's SHADOWBUILDER ($25) into my DVD player, despite the cool 3-D artwork featured on the front of the disc's keepcase packaging. SHADOWBUILDER is a direct-to-video horror movie from Sterling Home Entertaining that actually is somewhat better than certain other genre offerings that have found their way into movie theaters. The plot of SHADOWBUILDER isn't too original, but the cast deliver the material with such conviction that it turns out to fairly engrossing and quite entertaining.

As always, the Catholic Church seems to the last line of defense that keeps the darkness from encroaching upon the light. In fighting the eternal struggle between good and evil, the Church has amassed a great deal of forbidden knowledge that could be used to summon forth the darkness. It is this knowledge that corrupts an Archbishop, who performs an unholy rite that unleashes a demonic force upon the world. This demon takes the form of a shadow that lives in the veils of darkness. As with any shadow, this demon cannot exist in the light. To spread its darkness across the world of man, the Shadowbuilder demon must first eliminate the only thing that can destroy it- the soul of one particular young boy who has the potential to become a Saint. As the demon makes its way to its objective, it spreads corruption and death across a small upstate New York town.

SHADOWBUILDER stars Michael Rooker as Father Vassey. Vassey is unlike most priests; he serves his calling by fighting evil with both guns drawn. It is up to Father Vassey to find and protect the young boy, before the demon can destroy him. Michael Rooker is great as Vassey, he makes it totally believable that in a world where one would fight a real war against evil; there would be a priest like Vassey battling on the front line. Look for cult movie favorite Tony Todd turns as Covey, the semi-crazed hermit who helps Vassey in the final showdown. As always, Tony Todd is a hoot and a half, turning in the film's most entertaining performance. The cast of SHADOWBUILDER also includes Leslie Hope, Shawn Alex Thompson and Kevin Zegers.

Since SHADOWBUILDER comes direct-to-video, the film is presented full screen and appears to be composed for the television aspect ratio. The transfer itself is quite pleasing, with a sharp, nicely defined image that shouldn't disappoint genre fans of the DVD persuasion. While the film tends to be rather dark, there are details amongst the shadows. Color reproduction offers very good saturation, without a hint of chroma noise. Digital compression artifacts remained obscured by effective DVD authoring.

The two-channel Dolby Digital soundtrack decodes into standard surround and sounds pretty darn good for a direct-to-video production. The track adds atmospheric touches that enhance the creepiness of the story, plus there are a couple of directional effects. Spanish subtitles have been provided on the DVD.

The interactive menus contain a bit of animation, which puts them in a league above a whole lot of major studio releases. Through the menu on can access the standard scene and language selection features, plus they provide access to a director's commentary, production notes, a trailer, plus cast biographies.

I enjoyed SHADOWBUILDER and think that it's a title that genre fans will find it to be a good evening's entertainment.




DVD reviews are Copyright 1999 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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