When you’re making a low/no budget horror film, you can do worse than set it on Halloween. It also helps if you can throw in a heavy dose of weirdness and world building. David Axe’s new film, Shed, deftly checks both of those boxes, bringing us a unique take on the standard “cabin in the woods” scenario as a group of twenty-somethings gather for the annual Halloween party at creepy old Mike’s (Mike Amason) house. But as one might expect from the screenwriter of 2017’s brilliantly insane The Theta Girl, this isn’t your standard slasher-in-the-woods movie.

Shot in South Carolina during a hurricane, Shed is one of those films that exemplifies the struggles and triumphs of indie filmmakers. Yes, the production is rough around the edges, with your standard acting issues with performances ranging from naturalistic and believable to amateurish and distracting, and problems with audio and lighting, but in the end, Axe held the production together and got the film made. And while the production values leave something to be desired, Axe more than makes up for it with big ideas and inventive editing and camerawork.

The opening title sequence, in particular, is gorgeous. Filmed with what looks like just a flashlight to illuminate the scene, Axe frames the shots to maximize the contrast between the heavy blacks of nighttime in the woods with the limited visibility offered by the light. The rest of the film also relies on natural or limited light to varying effect, but when it works, it works well.

While the plot centers on a Halloween party that erupts into violence and massive bloodshed, the story is much more ambitious, telling a centuries-long love story between skin-stealing monsters living among humanity in secret. It’s a concept that practically demands a bigger budget, if only to really develop believable visual effects, and Axe does the best he can with what he’s got. The creature make-up and effects by Lisa Ashworth and Brandon McIver rely more on body paint and imagination than prosthetics, which might put off some viewers looking for realistic skinless bodies but works well enough to represent the otherness of the creatures. And there are plenty of practical prosthetic effects in the rest of the film.

The script is the real strength of Shed, and if there was anything that I could complain about it would only be the fact that until the last act, we don’t really have a main character. Instead the film cycles through at least three characters (out of fourteen or so) who seem to be the leads, before it finally shifts the narrative attention to the creatures and a trio of characters who barely interacted with the rest of the cast and got only passing attention prior. To be fair, though, Axe does his best to give nearly everybody a moment or two in the spotlight, even if it’s only to set up a grisly death.

Shed is hitting the festival circuit as we speak, so if you get a chance to check it out, it’s definitely worth a look. In the meantime, here’s the trailer!

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