Shadow in the Cloud is a movie that doesn’t strive to make much sense, for better and for worse. A popular pick in TIFF’s cult scary section Midnight Madness, where it won that category’s people’s choice award, Roseanne Liang’s action horror flick largely takes place in a World War Two bomber that’s being attacked by mysterious (and terrifying) gremlins. Hell ensues.
Starring Chloe Grace Moretz as Flight Officer Maude Garrett and Nick Robinson as Beckell, most of Shadow in the Cloud consists of the increasingly stretched crew staving off attacks by the cartoonish demons – and some internal battles that threaten to have consequences which are even graver.
A shaky aesthetic and a liking for slapstick violence bring to mind the early work of Zack Snyder, but Roseanne Liang has other priorities than just entertaining. The sexist guffaws of much of the crew drive on Garrett’s personal mission, and the allegorical gremlins lend a political subtext to a film that has more to say than you might immediately think. On a plane packed with boisterous men and toxic attitudes, those pesky demons come to represent more than just an immediate threat.
Even so, that didactic intrigue is never quite delivered on. Many of the more violent plot points are sillier than they are scary, and though it will have been sure to deliver at a crowded midnight screening, Shadow in the Cloud leaves little impression beyond some striking visuals. Its social focus is, moreover, soapier than a meaningful action film’s ought to be.
Nevertheless, Liang’s filmmakes for an adrenaline-fuelled ride on a lower budget level than you might expect. And a good leading performance from Moretz – her somewhat questionable English accent aside – ties it up.
Shadow in the Cloud is worth watching if horror-action-gore films are your type of thing, but might just be a tad too silly if it isn’t.