While the horror genre has definitely been putting out some impressive films lately (last year was INSANE), the fact is, that a lot of the genre’s entries just rehash the same formula and cliches. There are always gems hidden somewhere within those films, and when you find those gems, it’s enough to give any horror fan a refreshed and excited feeling. Luck for us horror lovers, Max Finneran’s Sci-Fi/Horror hybrid THE SHELLS is definitely one of those gems. A film that offers fans something new, keeping you guessing until the very end.

Following Alex (Britt Lower), a young woman who has to take medication to help her not  have recurring nightmares, THE SHELLS wastes no time in allowing its audience to get a feel for its lead. When Alex agrees to be in an amateur film revolving around the disappearance of a scientist that went missing in the ’60s, you’re already on board, and ready to see horrors await Alex and the film crew. Where the film could have very easily ended up being a typical slasher or haunting film, Finneran had more ambitious plans and instead, gives viewers what could be best described as A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET meets PHANTASM. It’s a film you have to pay attention to, as the plot begins to twist and turn and one by one, each of member of the film crew are sucked into a neurological alternate reality, becoming as the title states, shells of who they once were. They walk around, as if they’re sleepwalking, and the stylistic choices in the film revolving around the transformation between their present and shell selves is a fun looking one.

What’s great, is, like A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET or films like that one, a lot of it serves as a metaphor for facing your nightmares and fear, and defeating it. When a sketchy member of the crew replaces Alex’s medication with pills that help her sleep, it opens up her nightmares, and it’s up to her in the film to be the sole person saving the rest of the film crew, her estranged sister included. Led by Lower’s amazing performance as Alex, the film just succeeds at all levels, and Lower is one hell of an actress, which helps elevate the film even more. There isn’t a weak performance in the film, and THE SHELLS never relies on style over substance to tell its story, it has a good amount of both elements.

Unlike anything I’ve seen in the last twenty years, THE SHELLS is an interesting and completely entertaining film that offers up a sci-fi/horror hybrid that will restore faith in independently made horror, a film that should serve as a testament to writer/director Max Finneran’s ability to not only tell a good story, but one that twists and turns, without ever going off the rails even once. It’s one of the most original horror films in decades and should be watched by genre fans looking for something smart and thought-provoking.


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