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SHADY GROVE (2022)
Directed by Dale Resteghini.
Written by Nathan Dalton, Niki McElroy.
Starring Todd Anthony, Niki McElroy, Juhahn Jones, Becki Hayes, Victoria Baldesarra, Sydney Morgan, Jackie Ritz
Mark (Todd Anthony), his girlfriend Shaina (Niki McElroy) and their friend Eli (Juhan Jones) take a relaxing vacation at an Air B&B in the countryside called Shady Grove. Once they arrive, they begin to notice strange things occurring around their rental home. When Eli picks up a few of the local ladies to party with, he accidentally invites a group of murderous locals to the mixer.
SHADY GROVE is alright, I guess. It basically takes three African American protagonists and tosses them into the country where there looks to be no black people for miles and miles. While the film doesn’t come right out and talk about the fact that the protagonists are black and the antagonists are a bunch of country hicks, it’s made pretty obvious. In fact, I have to give SHADY GROVE some credit for not making this a skin color issue. The murderous cultists don’t seem like racists. They’re just out to murder and push their cult practices forward. And the trio of stars don’t go out of their way to bring up racial issues, they have their own problems to deal with. For that, I felt the film either felt like a throwback to a time when racial issues were not on the tip of everyone’s tongue or a refreshing move forward from films that have to be about some kind of social issue. This makes SHADY GROVE just a movie about three people being stalked by a weird country cult wearing bags and animal masks on their heads and as a horror movie, it does its job well enough.
While no one on this this are outstanding, the three main actors Anthony, McElroy, and Jones are likable and relatable all the way through. Mark is noble, cautious, yet dedicated to Shaina. Shaina is questioning what she wants in life and while she recently experimented a relationship with a woman, now wants to settle down with Mark. I found this couple’s relationship believable and while I think I would have liked to have their relationship issues reflect the horrors they encounter a bit more, they manage to flesh out their differences and reasons to be together fairly well. Less tolerable is Juhan Jones as Eli who mainly serves to be the party-guy acting goofy and horny the entire time. A little of Jones’ antics go a long way and while he manages to show some depth later in the film, he is by far the most annoying of the bunch.
I didn’t expect much going into SHADY GROVE and found myself pleasantly surprised. It’s nothing new. Just backwoods hillbilly cultists invading the protagonists’ home and doing some murdering. I will say that one of Eli’s love interests, Victoria Baldesarra is pretty swell to look at and definitely has a strong presence in the film for such a small part. SHADY GROVE doesn’t do anything necessarily wrong. It simply is another backwoods horror film and if you’re interested in a harmless one of those, this one’s it.