The Shed. 2019.
Directed by Frank Sabatella.
Starring Jay Jay Warren, Cody Kostro, Sofia Happonen, Frank Whaley, Timothy Bottoms, Chris Petrovski, and Siobhan Fallon Hogan.
Stan lives with his abusive grandfather and tries to protect his best friend from high school bullies. When he discovers a murderous creature has taken refuge inside his tool shed, he tries to battle the demon alone until his bullied friend discovers the creature and has a far more sinister plan.
If there’s one thing The Shed gets right, it’s reassuring viewers that vampires can be savage, malicious creatures of nightly fury. Director and writer Frank Sabatella provokes comparisons of Fright Night and Nosferatu in fanged soulsucker makeup, reverting back to the primality of vampiric bloodlust. Maybe the overarching story doesn’t do much with said feral ferocity, but it’s refreshing to see filmmakers like Sabatella treat vampirism as an affliction, not a sexy excuse to upgrade wardrobe with seductive gothic satins. The Shed is generic in narrative, performances, and struggles to become anything more – but at bare minimum takes the correct approach. For that, at least, points are awarded.
Teenager Stan (Jay Jay Warren) wakes every morning tortured by memories of his shattered family life, now living with an abusive grandfather. Each day brings the same frustrations both at home and in school, especially when it comes to bullies targeting Stan or best friend Dommer (Cody Kostro). That’s until a vampire (played by Frank Whaley) seeks refuge in Stan’s wooden shed, where he’s locked in the daylight before any chance of moonlight escape. Whoever gets close to the death box, or worse goes inside, ends up vamp chow. Should Stan eliminate the supernatural creature in his backyard? Or use his new discovery to teach those who’ve wronged him a gruesome lesson.
Conceptualization is simplistic to a fault. There’s never a deeper happening throughout The Shed than “Stan finds a vampire, keeps it locked up, and characters keep going inside despite Stan’s pleading.” Plotting gets a bit, for lack of better descriptors, “silly” in that Sabatella must continue finding ways to drive more fresh meat into the shadowy hideaway for Whaley’s infected beast. Between Stan’s motivational shiftiness to a repetition of advancing storytelling beats, not even a third act home invasion standoff distracts from the mundanity of rural vampiric lore built on little else than growls and one-off deaths.
If your film relies on animal killings, particularly a pet, to establish any monster’s violent tendencies, you’ve already started yourself in a rut. Such an easy and manipulative ploy that can be written in so many alternative ways, but alas.
Sabatella’s indie practical effects create jagged-toothed vampires and showcase victim dismemberment with ample enthusiasm. You’ll get some fun do-it-yourself decapitations and appendage tears, along with bites and juicy red liquids spilling as this, of course, is a vampiric tale after all. The Shed entertains most when “Joe Bang” – legit, Whaley’s character’s nickname (Logan Lucky?) – attacks those dumbfounded enough to tempt what fate lurks beyond Stan’s chained shack door. Always alone, never with backup sans some finale fighting back when romantic obsession Roxy (Sofia Happonen) helps Stan defend his ground.
Those emotional arcs structurally supporting The Shed never elevate above standard small-town disses or weightless assholeishness. Enter “mean bro” Mable (Chris Petrovski), who spends his appearances either beating on Dommer or taunting Stan by making lewd remarks about porking and dumping Roxy. There’s never much handling of Stan’s grief beyond alt-punk record listening with headphones on as a translation of angst, even worse when law enforcement shows no sympathy to a boy inherently marked with “delinquent” classifications. All this snowballing into Dommer’s misuse of Stan’s carnivorous weapon, dooming them all when “just desserts” aren’t enough.
Place the same level of surface-value character treatments onto Stan and Roxy’s arc, falling in love because heroes do better with romance on the line, and you get the general makeup of The Shed. There’s some nifty cinematography by way of aerial shots looking downward on grassy fields, selling backcountry isolation, but it’s hard to comment that Stan’s story is ever “enough.” Sabatella serves the subgenre fine, but draws out the same overused actions instead of evolving his captive vs. captor scenario into something more gratifying. It’s got a piercing bite, yet sucks nothing but air far too quickly once substance dries up. A passable selection if ever on Shudder or Netflix or Amazon Prime (etc.), hard to recommend otherwise to genre veterans who’ve seen everything under the sun.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Matt spends his after-work hours posting nonsense on the internet instead of sleeping like a normal human. He seems like a pretty cool guy, but don’t feed him after midnight just to be safe (beers are allowed/encouraged). Follow him on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd (@DoNatoBomb).