It was somewhere between the needlessly long take of a man mourning at his father’s grave and an unrelated phone call ranking the most missed genitals between two-thirds of a three-partner relationship that I knew I was in trouble with Shed.
The screener description and the IMDb synopsis are both the same:
An indie horror flick with skin-stealing monsters. But really, it’s about love.
Write it on a Post-It, your palm, or the dust on your TV. Like a house number you’re looking for in a neighborhood you don’t know, you will mutter these sentences over and over in a quietly paranoid attempt to prove that you’re not lost.
Writer/Director/Editor/Cinematographer David Axe (The Theta Girl 2017 – read our review here) had a good idea with The Shed. When God made humans, the devil (explicitly female here) made something else… a species of humanoid, skin-stealing beings that can’t reproduce, but live forever as a mulligan. A little bit The Hidden, a little bit The Thing, two of the skin-wearing impostors (skinpostors, henceforth) are trapped in a remote shed with a drunken Halloween party full of cannon fodder. Now, you’ve got a goofy, gory hour-and-a-half of fun.
As is, Shed blows through the setup, the picking-off, the finger-pointing tension, and the seemingly climactic death spree in about twenty minutes. To his credit, Axe makes the riskier choice in handing the narrative reins to the monsters. Instead of following the partiers and letting them piece it all together in time to fend for themselves, we see them for the same generic, fleshy cattle as the skinpostors see them. I found this to be a more interesting perspective than another drinking-in-the-woods tragedies, but at the cost of a single, sympathetic non-monster. Several of the partygoers are revealed to be open degenerates – one enterprising soul pees in a bourbon bottle to repay the woman who spurned him with free shots – and if we were given the names of the two pitiless souls who decide to fight instead of flee, I must’ve missed it.
“I must’ve missed it” will haunt you like short-term déjà vu. We don’t meet the subjects of that amorous phone call until a sex scene shot with the corner-of-the-ceiling grace of a porno nobody involved knew they were shooting. Person #3, a stranger to us, shows up and joins in without hesitation or resistance. The leader of the skinposters has thrown the same party and told the same spooky story every Halloween for a long, unspecified time, about their kind luring the young and dumb to faraway sheds for harvesting. It is implied that they will pick someone off from one of these parties should their old outfit lose its elasticity. Yet nobody, not even the trustworthy sheriff, seems to connect those dots. By the third act, who is human and who is a skinpostor? Beats me. Some of it may be intended, but when the last-ditch effort to save humanity hinges on knowing the difference, all you can do is let your eyes glaze until Shed catches you up on the last ten minutes.
The movie ends with an apology. At the bottom of the credits, the filmmakers admit a hurricane swept the South Carolina location during production and a group walk-out of cast and crew didn’t do it any favors, either. One character was played by three different actors. I couldn’t tell. I also don’t think this is to anyone’s credit besides maybe those three actors, because the deepest problems with Shed have nothing to do with scheduling or acts of God.
“But really, it’s about love” is a great little gag for a movie with a poisonous lack of intentional levity. One of the excruciatingly long one-shots wanders around the shed as everyone dances to stock dubstep entirely too slow for the mood and entirely too demanding for the choreography, as they paw at the sky like nip-dosed cats at yarn. That bone-chilling story about skin-stealers, the one that is absolutely essential to the plot considering it’s secretly the truth about what’s going on, is told over a beat that belongs on a YouTube video about mixing the perfect Mojito. The third act is played for full-bore Hallmark Original melodrama and concludes in a heartfelt threesome between people whose names still escape me.
The ripping-and-tearing stuff looks good. Skin peels, unzips, and lands in spongy heaps. The makeup on the skinposters is effective in a Darth Maul kind of way. There’s plenty of nudity, most of it logic-defiantly unnecessary and some of it seemingly accidental. A party full of revelers die in a mass shooting far more disturbing than probably intended. It’s got all the bullet points that some horror fans need.
But if you’re looking for those thrills, they’re not worth wading through the skinposter melancholia. If you want that weird angle on a threadbare story, it’s not worth tolerating the flavorless mush of everything you’ve seen before. If you’re looking for something different in your indie horror, Shed just isn’t worth it.