Shroud (DVD)

Shrouded in mystery.

It’s the Old West. Lady Celestine (Nicole Leigh Jones) has traveled from Holland to the tiny Western town of Shroud, on an investigation to find her missing husband. With her little brother Abraham (Dylan Barth) in tow, Lady Celestine makes several enemies while uncovering a deadly conspiracy that dates back to the days of the conquistadors.

It’s taken me forever to write this review, because I’m still not sure what to make of Shroud. It begins simply enough, as a fish-out-of-water drama, with this prim and proper European lady butting heads with a town full of rough n’ tumble cowfolk. About halfway through, there’s a surprise reveal or two that changes the tone of the movie considerably, putting in firmly in supernatural/horror territory. I started out watching low-budget Unforgiven, only to have it turn into low-budget Brotherhood of the Wolf.

That might sound exciting cool, but it’s a tonal shift that comes out of nowhere. Other movies that have these surprise changes, but more deftly. From Dusk Till Dawn does this, starting out as a hostage thriller and then becoming something a lot crazier, but that movie begins with an over-the-top shootout, telling viewers at the start that this is a movie with outrageous carnage. A more recent example is Looper, which makes an enormous shift in tone in its second half, but this too is foreshadowed carefully by the filmmakers. Shroud’s introduction of new themes and concepts in its latter hour just comes off as confusing and out-of-nowhere.

The low budget is another concern. There’s a lack of immersion, in that I never got the sense that these were Old West folk, but people merely dressed up in Old West costumes. This is a fine line, I’ll admit, and highly subjective, but it nonetheless stood out. In a Western, you expect surfaces to be dust-covered and splintery, you expect faces to be sweaty and grimy, you expect clothes to be rumpled and wrinkly, and you expect guns to be rusted and weathered. There’s an overall lack of roughness to the whole thing, so that the movie looks more like actors on a set than it does a lived-in world.

If you disagree and enjoy the movie’s look, then you’ll have no complaints about the DVD’s picture quality, which is clean and clear. Audio is decent as well, putting most of the emphasis on dialogue. Zero bonus features.

The Verdict

Prepare for burial.

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