A dysfunctional family occult thriller steeped in gothic gloom, Silvana Zancolo’s The Shadow Within rises above conventional horror with its knack for robust storytelling, counting a soggy umbilical cord emerging from a tree branch in a snow swept cemetery, and an atmospherically charged mood over mere mayhem. Playing out during World War II in a rustic wintry French village psychologically scarred by the unseen conflict, The Shadow Within intensifies the chills, both psychologically and weather-wise, by fusing phobias around disease, dreams, and diabolical inclinations, not to mention peculiar mid-20th century surreal doctor-patient relationships.
Laurence Belcher is Maurice, an emotionally abused schoolboy and only child tyrannized by his reclusive, paranoid young single mom, Marie (Hayley J. Williams), ever since his identical twin Jacques passed away and his father went off to war. While Maurice’s austere daily life revolves around rigorous household chores, warding away nosy neighbors when his mother goes into town, and conversing on occasion with the shadow of his late twin prowling about, he’s also forbidden to read books or attend school.
Eventually the concerned country physician Dr. Prevost (Beth Winslet, sister of Kate) starts stopping by and annoying Marie. Though a collection of sulking local older women who have lost their sons mostly in battle, are soon visiting to engage in seance sessions with the assistance of a less than eager Maurice, to hopefully converse with their dead offspring.
Though The Shadow Within is repetitive at times, with the seemingly reincarnated Jacques playing hide and seek with audience patience, there is much to recommend this exceptionally original and supremely spooky supernatural thriller. Including wayward umbilical cords, freaky forceps, multiple seance matricide, homicidal apparitions, and a born again toy bunny.
MTI Home Video Rated R 2 1/2 stars