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TIFF 2020 Review: Shadow in the Cloud – “You’re in for a wild ride”

Image Courtesy of TIFF

NOTE: the following review contains ‘spoilers’ about the type of monster in this film. You’ll find out in the first 30 seconds of the movie anyway, but if you don’t want to know going in, stop reading here.  


During World War II, Royal Air Force pilots reported a peak number of strange incidents involving mischievous and malicious creatures.  These creatures, coined as gremlins, would chew through planes, destroy navigation systems and pull out electrical wires.  Of course, none of this was true, but it helped with morale having something to place blame on if you had a bad landing or damaged plane.  The RAF even had a series of safety posters featuring the gremlins saying things like “Gremlins think it’s fun to hurt you.  Use care always”.  Honestly, I had no idea that this was the case, and that’s certainly the only thing you’re going to learn from watching Shadow in the Cloud, but this B-movie ode to the women of the WWII Air Force sure is enjoyable monster-movie entertainment.

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It’s 1943, and Maude Garrett (Chloë Grace Moretz) steps onto the tarmac of an Auckland airbase, package in hand.  A B-17 plane appears called The Fool’s Errand, a pin-up girl painted along its side.  She boards the plane with orders that she’s to keep the bag she’s carrying safe and deliver it to their destination.  However, the men on board aren’t happy with a dame pushing their way onto their plane or her presence at all.  They relegate her to the turret on the bottom of the plane for take-off while she listens to their misogynistic comments over coms.

However it’s here she starts hearing and seeing things allowing her to discover there are actually two enemies with them in the sky – the Japanese and a gremlin (which kind of looks like a large fruit bat on steroids).  Despite her warnings about both these things, Maude is dismissed and made fun of, she’s a woman so what she’s saying can’t possibly be true.  The lives of everyone on board are in danger for their ignorance and, as you can presume would be the case for this horror/action hybrid, chaos ensues.

Writer-director Roseanne Liang‘s success in this film is greatly due to Moretz’s dynamic performance.  For the first half of the film, a good forty or so minutes,  Moretz is enclosed in an incredibly small space, the only person on screen and yet it remains engaging, building intrigue as details of Maude’s mission are slowly revealed.  However it’s the second half where the film’s star gets to put her Kick-Ass training to good use, and Moretz becomes an action hero that is not to be messed with, even as she deftly defies gravity.

However Liang knows that she’s making a campy monster movie, and she delivers in full measure.  Her introduction of the crewmen plays with comic-book energy, the energetic original score composed by Mahuia Bridgman-Cooper is full of 80’s-esque synthesizer, the monster’s animation looks like a slightly improved Army of Darkness creature.  Shadow in the Cloud never takes itself too seriously, and that’s part of its charm.  Liang also injects a healthy dose of feminism into her film, right down to its final scene.

So my advice, leave your logic (and even physics for that matter!) at the door and strap in for a hell of a lot of fun.  Shadow in the Cloud is zany and bonkers, but if you give into its elements you’re in for a wild ride.  I can only imagine what watching this one in a crowded Midnight Madness TIFF theatre would have been like, but even on your couch there’s plenty to enjoy.

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