Shadow: Dead Riot

Unpolished but energetic, this ultra-low-budget mix of women-in-prison hijinks, grisly gore, zombies, cat fights, martial arts, tattoos, nude shower scenes and a monster baby a la Larry Cohen's IT'S ALIVE (1974) flies its freak flag proudly. Twenty years ago the execution of demon-worshipping multiple murderer Edward Marquis (CANDYMAN star Tony Todd) —...read more

Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
Rating:

Unpolished but energetic, this ultra-low-budget mix of women-in-prison hijinks, grisly gore, zombies, cat fights, martial arts, tattoos, nude shower scenes and a monster baby a la Larry Cohen's IT'S ALIVE (1974) flies its freak flag proudly. Twenty years ago the execution of demon-worshipping multiple murderer Edward Marquis (CANDYMAN star Tony Todd) — aka "Shadow" — at Ellis Glen maximum-security penitentiary went horribly wrong and sparked a full-blown riot that was brutally put down by guards. The matter was hushed up and the corpses of Shadow and the rioters secretly buried in the prison yard. Now the notorious institution has been transformed into Ellis Glen Experimental Rehabilitation Facility for Women, where brisk Warden Danvers (Nina Hodoruk) uses a regimen of vitamin shots, yoga and counseling to turn tough young criminals into productive members of society. At least, that's the theory. In practice, Danvers is thoroughly undermined by her staff, including bull-dagger head guard Elsa Thorne (Andrea Langi) — the ILSA-inflected name is no accident — and pervy Dr. Swann (Michael Quinlan), who extort sexual favors from inmates and let psychotic bullies like the muscle-bound Mondo (professional bodybuilder Tatianna Butler) terrorize the weaker girls. Into this snake pit walks Solitaire (Carla Greene), a troubled young woman who takes no attitude from anyone. Though she befriends her pregnant cell mate, Emily (Cat Miller), she clashes with just about everyone else, from Swann to Thorne to Mondo and the warden. After getting herself banished to solitary confinement, she makes inadvertent contact with Shadow's vengeful spirit and sets in motion a chain of events that leads to the "dead riot" of the title. Directed by Hong Kong cinematographer Derek Wan, this bloody stew of genre cliches and in-jokes was clearly designed as a ready-made guilty pleasure for die-hard exploitation fans. It's by no stretch of the imagination a good film, but it delivers what it promises: naked girls whaling on each other, flesh-ripping zombies and genre stalwart Todd growling and glowering satanically from beneath a mane of dreadlocks — the He-Who-Kills teeth are a nice touch.

MIXED-ISH - In "mixed-ish," Rainbow Johnson recounts her experience growing up in a mixed-race family in the '80s and the constant dilemmas they had to face over whether to assimilate or stay true to themselves. Bow's parents Paul and Alicia decide to move from a hippie commune to the suburbs to better provide for their family. As her parents struggle with the challenges of their new life, Bow and her siblings navigate a mainstream school in which they're perceived as neither black nor white. This family's experiences illuminate the challenges of finding one's own identity when the rest of the world can't decide where you belong. (ABC/Kelsey McNeal)
MYKAL-MICHELLE HARRIS, ARICA HIMMEL, ETHAN WILLIAM CHILDRESS
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