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The Anniversary at Shallow Creek (Jon D. Wagner, 2010)


Just about everything under the sun has been done already in slasher films. Jon D. Wagner’s The Anniversary at Shallow Creek attempts to breathe novelty into the genre by featuring a masked killer who mostly dispatches his victims through sniper fire. As horror film gimmicks go, this has its good and bad points. The level of gore pales somewhat here when compared with that in the average slasher movie. Victims rarely are tortured for very long before they die. Still, there’s something to be said for the element of surprise gained by having a killer who can seemingly strike from anywhere at any time. The reason why it seems necessary to dwell on the killer’s mode of dispatch is that The Anniversary at Shallow Creek is otherwise undistinguished. Anyone familiar with horror movies of this type will be able to anticipate its every movement. Though director Wagner manages to create a genuinely suspenseful work here, he certainly has not made an original one.


The setup is certainly familiar. After a brief, bloody (but tangential) prologue, a group of six teens heads to a remote cabin for a weekend. Once there, they quickly find themselves under siege from a sadistic, yet playful, masked serial killer. These scenes, which make up the film’s tense midsection, are probably the movie’s highlights. They exhibit Wagner’s technical proficiency and provide most of the movie’s biggest jump scenes. Things slow down considerably as the film moves toward its climax, though. The heroine (who seemed to scarcely stand out among the cast before this sequence) is given a sadistic moral choice. From this point on, The Anniversary at Shallow Creek attempts to engage in an audience provocation. What the screenwriters have devised, however, is too timid to truly unsettle genre fans.


Still, The Anniversary at Shallow Creek offers a few thrills along the way, albeit predictable ones. The shocks that come with each of its bloody headshots will likely manage to catch viewers off guard. The same unfortunately cannot be said for the script’s hilariously unconvincing red herrings. When The Anniversary at Shallow Creek oversteps its limited ambitions, it frequently stumbles.  When it simply spends its energies offing its nearly anonymous cast, it fares better.



Jeremy Heilman