Review: Shimmer

Written and directed by Rob Ciano, a forensic scientist is called to a bizarre crime scene. What she thought was the scene of a murder turns out to be something more terrifying. Starring: Nichole Galicia, Kazy Tauginas, Jacques Mitchell, Brian Anthony Wilson, Susan Moses, Carrie Plumley and Tony Wolf.

Kicking a film off with a mysterious killer, whether it be human, supernatural, biological, alien or otherwise, is always a good place to start, it’s hard to resist the pull of the unknown. In this case, the unknown is turning people into piles of diamond like gems with no answers or responsible parties in sight. It’s a fun and interesting concept, adding a new spin to a classic trope of cinema but unfortunately it stumbles along the way, getting distracted by less important elements and arcs to its story. The main culprit being its dramatic side, dealing with marriage and work problems, they do have a place to explore the characters in a larger way but they simply take away too much time from the key investigation. It gets to the point where their motivation to find what’s killing these people feels almost secondary, undercutting the drive of the story.

The dialogue throughout can also be fairly stiff, the tone doesn’t always match the urgency or shock that you’d expect from the number of deaths. One of the interesting qualities to the writing however is how it turns on its head the expected gender roles of similar films that came before it. Being led by Nichole Galicia’s forensic scientist Thea, and both her husband (Jacques Mitchell) and detective partner (Kazy Tauginas) taking a supporting role. A particularly fascinating example is presenting Thea’s husband rationally taking issue with how her work is affecting her family life, whereas typically with the gender roles reversed, a woman would have been framed as whiny, needy or even hysterical. It’s a nice change of pace and presents a more healthy relationship, even if they do still have their issues, like any marriage.

Its visual style similarly has its ups and downs, the overall style and cinematography feel like they’re missing an edge or texture. Its aesthetic comes across somewhat simple, the framing of the shots isn’t problematic but it needed an extra push to make it feel more individual or distinctive. Although one clear exception is the choice of location for their autopsy style room, it’s an absolutely perfect choice, adding a huge dose of colour and atmosphere. The outdoor locations also help to push the mystery and suspense. An aspect which fights against those benefits is the score, it’s quite heavy-handed and overwhelming at times, taking too much attention and topping the scenes too aggressively, rather than raising the tension. Although its choice to minimise the special effects and go for something simpler, rather than attempting something too complicated, was a smart move and works well.

One of the great things about Nichole Galicia’s performance is that it doesn’t at all follow any typical over defensiveness or need to prove herself, that would usually come with a female character in a role like this. It’s refreshing to see her actively reject anyone trying to put her in a stereotypical box, particularly in the moments where her male colleagues try to put her in an inferior or vulnerable position and she refuses. The rest of the cast do hit very familiar notes but they all work well together. Kazy Tauginas’s Kurt in particular does tick off a lot of clichéd male detective characteristics and go a little heavy on the aggressive and defensive traits but his performance is solid. The only one that stands out as slightly odd is Carrie Plumley’s Dr. Richardson, it’s unusually casual and flaky for a scientist character, missing an authority or feel of knowledgeability that you’d expect.

Shimmer is a nice change of pace to typical mystery, thriller stories, changing up the typical rules and attempting something different. It has a slight The X-Files feel and the concept of people being turned to diamonds is fun and maybe a touch cheesy but that’s a welcome addition. It sadly just gets lost along the way and tries to bring in different layers of drama which ultimately end up taking away from the mystery. It would have been great to see it really focus on solving the puzzle rather than relationships and work issues, to bring a more satisfying suspense and resolution.

Verdict: ✯✯✯ | 6/10

Click here to find out where you can see Shimmer

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