Shadow in the Cloud is a very fun piece of pulpy trash, and if you turn your brain off, there is a lot of enjoyment to be had. The film is directed by Roseanne Liang, and is her first feature in over a decade of working in television and short films. Liang also had a large hand in rewriting the script, which was inherited from the disgraced Max Landis—Landis claims 90 to 95 percent of the script is still his, but then again, a man described by some as “a serial rapist, gaslighter, physical and psychological abuser” might not be telling the truth. There were attempts to get his name removed from the credits altogether, but Landis conceived of the story, so it may not have come down to the arbitration process.
Chloë Grace Moretz, who even in bad films has tons of charisma, leads the picture and is in pretty much every frame. It’s set during WW2, with Moretz playing Maude Garrett, a female flight officer. Garrett is supposed to transport a top-secret package from New Zealand to Samoa, and ends up on a B-17 bomber with a crew who aren’t the most welcoming to her. Soon after the flight takes off, she sees a gremlin on the wing. The flight crew dismisses her, and then she gets stuck in a gun turret and has to face the gremlin alone.
The film is really schlocky, but it’s a complete blast and has echoes of Aliens, which was Liang’s main influence when making the film. Roald Dahl’s picture book for children, The Gremlins, is also echoed throughout, including in the animation that starts the film. Part of the fun is seeing a feature set during WW2, which is when the term “gremlins” originated amongst the pilots. The set-up of somebody seeing a gremlin on the wing is just a rip-off from the Twilight Zone episode Nightmare at 20,000 Feet, but if you’re going to steal, that’s not a bad place to steal from. Landis’ father John infamously produced and directed a segment of the ’83 The Twilight Zone: The Movie , which had a very effective remake of that episode directed by Mad Max‘s George Miller, which along with the segment from Gremlins‘ Joe Dante utterly saves that film.
Physics are completely absent in Shadow in the Cloud, and with the bigger emphasis on realistic action films currently, it’s a breath of fresh air to just witness utterly ridiculous set-pieces. The film also has a certain tongue-in-cheek approach to the ridiculousness of it all: there is a moment where the camera flips 180 degrees as Maude climbs onto the bottom of the wing during flight to retrieve the package she is carrying. The best moment, however, comes a little later on, where the explosion of a Japanese fighter jet blows her up into the plane after falling towards a certain death—it’s far and away the best moment of “movie physics” I’ve seen in many years.
The music also needs a mention, it has this completely inappropriate ’80s synthesizer score, which just empathises the silliness of the film. To add to the inappropriate music, the end credits just randomly plays “Hounds of Love” by Kate Bush while it shows footage of female personal from WW2 cut with propaganda cartoons, I guess to hammer home the film’s superficial woman-empowerment message. Saying all this, Shadow in the Cloud is still a complete blast, with a very committed performance from Moretz. Nick Robinson from Love, Simon and Netflix’s Maid tries his best with the underwritten part of the tail gunner.
The DVD is barebones, without any extras of any kind, which is a shame.