Review: Shot in the Dark

Written and directed by Keene McRae, co-written by Kristoffer McMillan and Lane Thomas, all three also star in the film, two years ago, William Langston made a mistake that would affect the course of his life. Now, with a killer loose in his home-town and his circle of friends falling away one at a time, William faces his greatest fears as well as his own mortality. Also starring: Christine Donlon, Brandon Bernath, Kelley Mack, Jacqueline Toboni, Will Harris and Austin Hébert.

It’s an overly-well established fact that audiences have a deep obsession with crime, whether it be true or not, so basing your film around the antics of a serial killer is typically a safe bet. However, that doesn’t mean it will all automatically work and unfortunately, Shot in the Dark is a good example of right ingredients with the wrong combination. The elements of its story create a solid foundation but the way that they go about telling it is inherently messy. Using a non-linear timeline is extremely common at this point in cinema but it requires a certain clarity or path to bring everything together and these filmmakers haven’t quite achieved that. Interestingly it both gives away too much and too little at the same time, revealing its end goal too early and the justifications too late.

That issue directly impacts the pacing of the film because it’s not following a consistent and clear route. It’s dragging itself down by making the story more convoluted than it needs to be because it doesn’t have enough of an unexpected quality to pull it off. On top of which it feels as though the romance aspect is being shoehorned in and there’s not enough time building its lead characters to give you something to truly invest in. Visually it hits some classic horror notes, playing around with close-up shots focusing on the details and choppy editing. Again, the pieces are there but they’re not presented in the most effective way, it can’t manage to capitalise on the suspense and thrill that typically come with a serial killer story.

In turn that effects the performances, because while the entire cast do solid work, there aren’t big enough or individual enough personalities to generate sympathy. In that sense it feels like it’s flitting from moment to moment and not generating momentum. It also misses out on the chase and the reveal by giving things away too quickly, it doesn’t give itself the time or breathing room to add a tangible anticipation. Unfortunately all of that is then capped off with a poorly constructed ending which leaves things on a fairly cheap note, typically trying to throw in a satisfying turn but ending up with something predictable.

Shot in the Dark tries to capitalise on the audience obsession with serial killers but falls short. There’s some good ingredients but the way that they’re put together is messy and ineffective. It doesn’t manage to build a substantial tension or suspense but the direction does instil some great horror notes, along with a well done use of violence. Sadly, it moves its story in a way that’s unsatisfying to watch unfold, which is such a key element of murder stories.

Verdict: ✯✯ | 4/10

Available on VOD & Digital in the US from 4 October and coming to the UK 10 October

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