Directed By: Derek Wan
Starring: Tony Todd, Carla Greene, Nina Hodoruk
Trivia: This film was shot on location at an old disused prison in Holmesburg, Pennsylvania
Shadow: Dead Riot is a 2006 movie with a distinctly 70's personality, a slick combination of horror and the women in prison sub-genre that's so wonderfully over-the-top, you simply can't resist it's audacious charms.
Solitaire (Carla Greene) is the newest inmate at an experimental women's prison, yet there's something about the place that doesn't sit right with her. During a stint in solitary confinement, she discovers the source of her uneasiness; twenty years earlier, a serial killer known only as Shadow (Tony Todd) was scheduled to be executed in this very facility. As he was about to be put to death, a strange force took control, causing Shadow's torso to explode before the lethal injection could even be administered. His sudden and violent end led to a prisoner's riot, during which several inmates were killed, then buried in a mass grave on the penitentiary's grounds. Solitaire can sense Shadow's presence, and knows something very bad is about to go down, but her attempts to learn more are hindered by both the prison's doctor (Michael Quinlan), who has an agenda of his own, and a fellow inmate named Mondo (Tatiana Butler), a monster of a woman whose position of power is threatened when Solitaire refuses to back down. Through it all, Solitaire searches for answers, yet not even her wildest dreams could prepare her for the true evil that was about to be unleashed.
Shadow: Dead Riot opens strong, introducing us to Tony Todd's Shadow by way of a flashback to his unsuccessful execution. As played by Todd, Shadow is a truly frightening character, a killer with filed-down teeth who not only doesn't fear death, he invites it. From there, the film shifts into a full-on women in prison flick, with plenty of shower scenes, cat fights and lesbian overtones to satisfy even the ficklest aficionado of 70's grindhouse cinema. There's even some martial arts action tossed into the mix, and plenty of bloody violence to keep the gore hounds smiling. And if you're a zombie fan, you won't want to miss the climactic battle, where Solitaire and the other prisoners join forces with the warden (Nina Hoduruk) and her guards to fight off an entire army of the undead. Reading like a laundry list of some of the best that 70's exploitation had to offer, Shadow: Dead Riot promises something for everyone.
Of course, not everything in Shadow: Dead Riot works; a pair of fight scenes between Solitaire and Mondo lack energy, and there's a side story about a zombie baby that results in some laughably bad special effects (which, even if they were intentionally bad, take you right out of the film). But in the final tally, the movie delivers more smiles than it does groans, and is an entertaining nod to the movies of the grindhouse era.