A scene from 'Shadow Hours'
Courtesy Photo
* stars 90 minutes | Rated: R
Opened: Friday, July 21, 2000
Directed by Isaac Eaton

Starring Balthazar Getty, Peter Weller, Rebecca Gayheart, Peter Greene, Frederic Forrest, Michael Dorn, Brad Dourif & Richard Moll

This film is on the Worst of 2000 list.


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Rehab reprobate lured back into seamy underworld by mysterious stranger in shallow 'Shadow Hours'

By Rob Blackwelder

In "Shadow Hours" -- a bottom-feeder shocksploitation flick full of vapid, infernal biblical metaphors -- writer-director Isaac Eaton expects the audience to identify with a worthless, weak-willed, reprobate recently out of rehab who abandons his gorgeous, loyal, pregnant wife to follow a rich stranger into a hellish fantasy version of L.A.'s seamy underbelly.

Balthazar Getty -- the poor man's Charlie Sheen -- stars as an grumpy skid row gas jockey working the graveyard shift when a mysterious slickster (Peter Weller) pulls up in a Porsche, dark sunglasses and a $2,000 suit. He's looking for some gritty, down-and-out soul to torture as a "research assistant" on a book, apparently about the joys of social malignancy.

Soon Weller is dragging our complaisant hero around to strip bars, drug dens, graphically depicted S&M dungeons and dingy basements where they bet on bloody bare-knuckle brawls. But even after finding himself utterly appalled by his experiences, Getty's pump attendant -- already sickened by daily exposure to the dregs of humanity at his ghetto gas station -- continues to ride shotgun for the mystery man night after night.

Why is anyone's guess. Motives and psychological depth are conspicuously absent from these rough personality sketches that pass for characters. Eaton seems to more interested in depicting the world they pass into as a festering, reprehensible, horror movie inferno of sick and twisted debauchery. Close-ups of fish hooks through eyelids, anyone?

Hollow-eyed Weller is well-cast as a Lucifer figure, luring his fluctuating disciple into an even uglier version of the druggie life he'd left behind by offering him Armani outfits and waving wads of cash and lines of coke under his nose. But it's hard to sympathize with a hero who can't walk away from such simplistic temptations when they come with such stomach-turning strings attached (the film probably narrowly dodged an NC-17 rating for its gross-out factor alone).

Meanwhile, waiting for him at home is former Noxema girl Rebecca Gayheart ("Jawbreaker"), who watches her husband's recovery ebb badly and doesn't do much but pout about it. Supposedly she's the world to him, but in all his inexplicable temptation, he never once turns to her when he feels himself slipping.

Hmmm. Behind door one is a gutter existence of skanky whores, sadomasochists and listening to Weller's endless deluge philosophical and sociological rhetorical nonsense ("Night descends on a city and a miraculous transformation occurs..."). Behind door two is a fulfilled desire for fatherhood and a devoted, delicious girl who is sticking by your side through rehab, a minimum wage job and an apartment in the projects. Any pathetic pug who can't see his way clear to that piece of cake decision is a waste of time as a protagonist.

If Eaton cared more about developing his characters' psyches (and if he'd had access to lead actors with more depth), "Shadow Hours" could have been a disturbing trip down a David Fincher-style rabbit hole.

But while the director's use of editing and atmosphere are clearly derivative of Fincher's "Seven," "The Game," and "Fight Club," all Eaton has managed do here is create a similarly sullied, dank, obscure realm into which he drops an unappealing, psychologically bankrupt loser as the lead.

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