Ever since Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever, I’ve had a general rule about avoiding movies with two unrelated titles squished into one, but Tony Todd headlining a zombie prison flick will always get my attention. Thus, we have Shadow: Dead Riot. The story centers around Shadow (Todd), a serial killer-slash-serial rapist-slash-occasional Satanist who’s executed for his crimes, but not before putting a curse on the prison that comes to fruition 20 years later after the jail has become a woman’s penitentiary (insert women having “the curse” joke here). This is by no means a great movie, or frankly even a good one, but you’ve got to admire a film that goes so balls-to-the-wall in all its low-brow glory. Shadow delivers what any good women’s prison movie should:
- A prison
- Shower scenes full of boobs and back tattoos (including nude icon Misty Mundae)
- A prison yard bully, in this case the truly frightening Mondo (Tatiana Butler)
- Kung fu
That’s right, kung fu. Directed by Hong Kong veteran Derek Wan, Shadow is filled with choreographed fight scenes (sort of like Devon’s Ghost) that are relatively well done, although these actors aren’t exactly Power Rangers.
It also features a black heroine named Solitaire (Carla Greene), whose secret ties to Shadow are painfully obvious. Green is decent as an action star (perhaps more so than as an actress), but you won’t need to use slo-mo to tell how often she’s replaced by an Asian stunt man in a wig.
As for the aforementioned zombies, they don’t show up until an hour into the movie, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty of half-naked towel-fu to fill the time. Even when the undead appear, the horror elements are often downplayed in favor of the action — thanks to a bunch of Hong Kong quick cuts and odd angles…although that doesn’t explain the weirdly over-saturated, colorized hue of the film.
Even if the horror elements don’t always score, Shadow remains a non-stop, over-the-top, exploitive hoot best summed up by the Solitaire’s triumphant finishing line (and the only mention of race in the film): “I love the sight of red on black.”