'Shadow In The Cloud' Review: Chloë Grace Moretz Battles Sexists And Gremlins In This Goofy World War II Horror Movie [TIFF 2020]

Shadow in the Cloud kicks-off with an amusing Looney Toons-style cartoon about a lazy, drunken World War II pilot blaming "gremlins" for all his problems. It's cheeky and funny, and it starts things off on the right foot. "Ah-ha!" you think. "This movie is going to be fun!" Spoiler alert: it's not. Sure, there are attempts at fun here. There are long, implausible action beats (one character actually falls out of a plane only to be blasted back into the plane by an explosion below – an explosion that doesn't hurt said person in the slightest). And there's a pulsing synth-based score that feels incredibly weird in a movie set during the Second World War. But none of this is enough to save Shadow in the Cloud from its own worse impulses.

And now, a disclaimer: Shadow in the Cloud originated as a screenplay by the dreaded Max Landis, a lousy, but high-paid, screenwriter who has been accused of emotional and sexual abuse by several women. Landis has mostly been in hiding over the last few years, and the folks involved with Shadow in the Cloud swear up and down that his script was drastically rewritten and that he no longer has anything to do with the project.

Fair enough – but he still gets his name in the credits, and a lot of the dialogue sounds awfully like the stuff Landis writes. Make of that what you will. I'm willing to give the filmmakers the benefit of the doubt here and assume they're being honest about all the rewrites – Roseanne Liang, who directed, is also credited with the script. But even without Landis' involvement, Shadow in the Cloud has some serious problems.

After our animated intro we meet Maude Garrett (Chloë Grace Moretz) on a dark, foggy runway. There's some great mood-building here, particularly in a moment where an air traffic controller vanishes into the fog right before Maude's eyes. Maude, a member of the WAAF (Women's Auxiliary Air Force), then hops onto a B-17 Flying Fortress where she's immediately met with hostility. And not just passive hostility, either. All the men on the plane are cruel, vile creeps and they immediately begin screaming at Maude. One of them even tries to physically push her off the damn plane, so averse are they to having a girl anywhere in their vicinity.

But Maude has a direct order from top brass to transport a mysterious case, and while the men don't like it, orders are orders. So they let Maude on their plane and then sequester her in a rickety ball turret at the bottom of the plane. From here, Shadow in the Cloud turns into almost a radio drama. For nearly a full hour we stay with Maude, alone in that turret, as she bickers back and forth with the assholish men over the plane's intercom. The guys don't hold back, and they're prone to go on long, rambling rants about how much they'd like to sexually defile Maude ("She has one of those mouths you just want to fuck!" one of them gleefully says).

Now – I'm not judging Shadow in the CLoud for having unlikeable characters. That's fine, there are plenty of great movies with unlikeable characters. But Shadow in the Cloud would fare better if it could just ease up a bit. Because, good lord, the characters in this movie refuse to shut the hell up for even a millisecond. Nearly every moment of that first hour is devoted to the unseen characters shouting, and screaming, and cursing, and joking, and talking about how much they want to have sex with Maude, over and over, and over and over again. It becomes insufferable, to the point where I came very close to aborting the mission and giving up on this movie entirely.

Eventually, things pick up when both a Japanese plane and a bat-like monster (a gremlin, if you will) show up to torment Maude and company. Here, Shadow in the Cloud kicks into full action movie mode, and Moretz does admittedly make for an ass-kicking heroine in the vein of Alien's Ripley. But watching Moretz battle her way against CGI backdrops that never look very convincing only takes the proceedings so far. And while Mahuia Bridgman-Cooper's synthy score is a lot of fun it never matches up with the imagery. Some may get a kick out of how over-the-top and pulpy Shadow in the Cloud is, but what's on display here is so abrasive and so bombastic that it begins to sap the life out of you, ultimately leaving a bad taste in your mouth when all is said and done.

/Film Rating: 5 out of 10