Vampires are, and have been, the classic movie monster. There’s no shortage of vampire lore out there for fans of the bloodsucking beasts. And with that, comes many different interpretations of the creatures–especially in recent years. We’ve seen lovesick, sparkly teenagers (Twilight) and hilariously out of touch roommates (What We Do in the Shadows). And while it’s interesting to have a vampiric variety to choose from, sometimes you just need to go back to basics. That’s what Shudder’s latest offering The Shed does so well.
The Shed follows Stan (Jay Jay Warren), a troubled teenager with a checkered past. He lives with his abusive grandfather and goes to school with a trio of psychopathic bullies and his best friend Dommer (Cody Kostro). When a vampire takes up camp in the shed behind Stan’s house, Dommer gets the idea to feed it with their tormentors.
The titular shed is a great set piece that finds writer/director Frank Sabatella using lighting and score to create an ominous mood. The opening sequence sets up the premise effectively, with little time wasted. It’s a bloody, vicious little scene which would work rather well on its own as a short film. From the opening moments, it’s clear: this vampire doesn’t bark–it just bites.
You won’t find the vampire in The Shed sparkling in the sunlight or going to a Staten Island dive bar. This is a primal beast with an insatiable bloodlust. The VFX work here is stellar, opting for practical effects over CGI. The creature design brings Nosferatu to mind, and the kills don’t skimp on the blood. After all, that’s what vampires are after, right? It’s the film’s greatest strength.
Unfortunately, the screenplay drags the film down by never fully exploring the premise. The movie spends more time with under-developed teenage characters than the vampire, which is counter productive when the vampire is the main draw. Stan’s tragic–and unnecessarily mean-spirited–backstory doesn’t serve any purpose. Every male character in this movie is ludicrously angry and violent, but the movie itself never comments on male violence. It simply uses it for shock value. Fair warning: it also commits the cardinal sin of brutal violence against animals.
The dialogue can also be cringe-worthy. Some of this is intentional, but there are other times where actors struggle to deliver their lines in a believable way. There’s an unhealthy dose of teenage angst poured over the pages of the script. Characters change viewpoints at the drop of a hat. The sympathetic local sheriff suddenly draws her gun on Stan with no regard for his explanation of events. At one point, the vampire has a chance to kill Stan and simply decides to leave and come back later. These things are somewhat expected in horror films, but The Shed feels like it should be better than that.
There are clear influences of Fright Night, a film which the movie clearly aspires to join in the ranks. It doesn’t, not by a long shot, but it has some moments that feel like it could have. It’s a “shoot for the moon” movie that doesn’t hit its intended landing, but has some fun on the journey. The movie simply feels like it could have done much more with its premise. Maybe it’s due to budget restrictions, but the film falls flat whenever the vampire isn’t involved.
No matter the flaws, it’s nice to see a monstrous, practically done vampire back in the movies. The Shed boasts a terrifying creature of the night. That alone makes it worth checking out–as long as you’re up for a middling movie filled to the brim with anger and teenage angst. Sabatella didn’t knock it out of the park this time around, but there’s enough evidence in The Shed to suggest he has an exciting career ahead of him.
Overall Score 2.5/5
The Shed is streaming now, exclusively on Shudder.