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Terror in the Skies: A TIFF Review of ‘Shadow in the Cloud’

September 19, 2020Ben MK

Although they're often associated with the 1980s fantasy comedy that bears their name, the mischievous critters known as gremlins actually owe their origins to the World War II era, when military pilots would blame them for the unexplained mechanical problems that befell their planes. Fast forward almost eight decades, and director Roseanne Liang is taking the nomenclature back to its roots with Shadow in the Cloud, a creature feature that also doubles as a kick-ass tale of female empowerment.

The year is 1943, and flight officer Maude Garrett (Chloë Grace Moretz) is preparing to embark on her most dangerous mission yet. When she steps aboard the Allied Air Forces B-17 bomber known as "The Fool's Errand," however, she's almost laughed back onto the tarmac by most of the plane's seven-man crew, who balk at the presence of a woman on their aircraft. Determined not to let the men's chauvinistic behavior impede her from fulfilling her duty — ensuring the safe passage of a highly classified package she's resigned to protecting with her life — Maude begrudgingly puts up with their taunts. But when the flight from New Zealand to Samoa descends into complete chaos after the appearance of a decidedly malevolent stowaway, it quickly becomes apparent that the only person capable of averting a total disaster is Maude.

A high-flying twist on slasher horror, Shadow in the Cloud owes much to films like Alien and Halloween — only instead of pitting its female lead against a soulless Xenomorph or a psychopathic killer, the antagonist is a bloodthirsty, bat-like creature. Suffice to say, genre fans won't be left wanting, and as an added bonus they might even learn a little bit about real-life female WWII pilots along the way.

Shadow in the Cloud screens under the Midnight Madness programme at the 2020 Toronto International Film Festival. Its runtime is 1 hr. 23 min.

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