Greetings from the Underground!
I have always enjoyed monster films, whether they are b-movie or mainstream. I also enjoy period piece horror. One of the TIFF2020 Midnight Madness films called Shadow in the Cloud manages to combine both types in a tension-filled thrill ride with a couple of surprises thrown in for good measure.
Shadow in the Cloud stars Chloë Grace Moretz as Maude Garrett, a female WWII pilot traveling with a top secret package aboard a B-17 Flying Fortress. Dealing with the chauvinistic crew appeared to be her biggest challenge after take off. That is, of course, before she encounters an evil presence that has decided to try to sabotage the plane. To top things off, there is the threat of an attack by Japanese planes. Maude is soon fighting on a number of fronts, determined to protect the package and complete her mission at all costs.
Chloë Grace Moretz is a force to be reckoned with. Every moment she is on screen exudes strength, yet there is a layer of vulnerability underneath the surface, from which that strength is drawn from. The crew of the B-17 , nicknamed “A Fool’s Errand” are fun characters that we have seen before in your standard war movie. The cast put in solid performances but you can tell this is definitely Moretz’s film.
Director Roseanne Liang crafts a story that is filled with legitimate tension and keeps the audience on the edge of their seat once the plane is in the air. Maude is ordered to stay in the belly gun turret of the plane for the duration of the trip. Through sharp direction, excellent camera angles and the performance of Moretz, there is a feeling of claustrophobia that will put the audience on edge. A good part of the film takes place in this location which helps keep the audience tense. This tension increases as the story progresses and more threats enter into the picture. At one point Maude becomes trapped in the belly gun. I found myself holding my breath as she was dealt with trying to free herself, the creature right outside her window, the crew’s increasingly harsh insults and the enemy plane lurking in the shadows.
I loved the design of the creature and the explanation of what it was. It did add some B-movie fun while still contributing to the dangerous environment Maude is in. The movie didn’t necessarily need the monster element though. With a few tweaks, it could have been just as nail biting without the monster but I think it would have been harder to bring out the message intended. Even though it is set in WWII, the challenges that Maude runs into with the crew are challenges that women are still facing today, whether it is being sexualized or accused of hysterics or underestimated. All of these things are addressed with the help of the monster as a catalyst.
I found the choice of music interesting. While the movie takes place in WWII, Mahuia Bridgman-Cooper’s score is full of synth instruments that added to the tension and created a unique identity. The action scenes were as good in this picture as they are in any war film. The set and costuming felt authentic and the special effects were well done.
Shadow in the Cloud could have been your very basic monster film but Roaseanne Liang gave it her own refreshing spin. Outside of the supporting characters being fairly cliche, I really enjoyed it. It had me on the edge of my seat most of the time and by the end I was cheering for Maude. I will warn that the concept may be a bit too out there for some and others may not like some of the on-the-nose commentary. I personally found this to be a breath of fresh air and highly recommend it to those who enjoy a period piece monster thriller with a b-movie flare.