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‘Shady Grove’ review: Cabin in the woods horror takes on too much

Does more than necessary.

Welcome to another installment of 31 Days of Halloween! This is our chance to set the mood for the spookiest and scariest month of the year as we focus our attention on horror and Halloween fun. For the month of October we’ll be sharing various pieces of underappreciated scary books, comics, movies, and television to help keep you terrified and entertained all the way up to Halloween.

Listen to the latest episode of the AIPT Movies Podcast!

Shady Grove is a good old fashioned cabin in the woods horror movie. Shaina (co-writer Niki McElroy) and Mark (Todd Anthony, Black Lightning) are expecting their first child and have decided to leave the party life behind them. They head to an isolated cabin with their friend Eli (Juhahn Jones, The Wire) in order to relax. Unfortunately, the locals have different plans.

The film moves at a lackadaisical pace during the first act. Shady Grove is obviously building to something, but it is in no hurry to get there. By the time the first kill occurs, almost an hour has passed. This means the plot speeds up dramatically during its second half. While there are a couple of things that carry over from the beginning, much of what happens feels unearned. There is some odd decision making (why open the door for someone knocking when you are already worried someone is stalking you?) and problems are easily solved. It makes it hard to get behind the protagonists when they are only in danger in theory.

Compounding matters is how Shady Grove is trying to do more than it has to. The logline which referencing Greek mythology and Roe vs Wade is a great example. The film has little to do with either, aside from having a largely female cast and a pregnant character. It should be a straight up horror movie, but it clumsily touches on trust and gender roles.

What is lost is a funny performance from Jones and a potentially creepy city versus country story. There is also a refreshing take on the crazy old man at the convenience store trope. Everything comes full circle in the final uncomfortable moments. Of course, Shady Grove is unable to run with a strong hand, and ends up continuing for one scene longer than necessary, negating the best parts of the entire movie.

Shady Grove opens on digital platforms October 25

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