Certain undertakings in life are almost guaranteed to have complications. Tasks such as obtaining a modest amount of ‘sweet leaf’ for ones pleasure for example. With the powers that be classifying the herb illegal, it means a weed hankering individual is forced to use those unconventional, and somewhat unreliable, salesmen better known as drug dealers.

The already knotty scenario is usually intensified when poor foresight results in your faithful lighter having nothing to burn. In other words, your bag is empty… your stash has expired…

It’s that very predicament which Nancy (Sophia Disgrace) finds herself in. She really should know better especially considering her self professed hobby is "smoking weed!"

Nancy’s smouldering habit is however frowned upon by her two flatmates. Jamie (Corinna Jane) is the peacemaker (with a car!) while Debra (Jane West) is a bit of a computer geek who prefers scrolling Ebays’ pages looking for motherboards as oppose to rolling Rizla’s!

Desperate measures call for desperate solutions and, as such, Nancy reluctantly calls her ex, Dan (Daniel Carter Hope), to try and score a little green bag. From the skate park, he has mixed news. Yes, due to widespread unemployment everyone is selling weed; but due to complete incompetence everyone is ‘dry’! There is one avenue left however: A hippie dude called Marley vaguely familiar to Nancy as that ‘Jamaican Geordie’ (though his ever changing fake twang falls short of both accents!). The only problem is Marley is "gittin in toch with nature mon!" at woodlands known as Devils Jump about 10 miles away. Somewhat reluctantly the three girls and Dan squeeze into Jamie’s car and start their rural trek in search of Marley and of course that elusive ganja.

Although they will eventually encounter a ‘super cop’ before the jaunt is over, a police bust is the last of their worries. It seems a malevolent and nameless force is stalking and cleansing the countryside, brutally annihilating anyone in its wake…

OK first things first this ‘Shadow of Death’ movie was written and directed by Gav Chuckie Steel and was made in 2012. It is not to be confused with a movie of the same name made a year earlier about "the spiritual journey of a young Christian woman and her boyfriend after her family are mercilessly gunned down in cold blood" (Cheers IMDB!!) Phew! With that out of the way, let’s get down to business.

The movie came about through Steel’s apparent frustration of his original plan regarding being a composer of movie music not coming to fruition. The combination of rejection letters and broken assurances motivated Steel to write his own movie which he could finally score himself. In 2008 he wrote a modest 25 page script and while honing it also undertook a self taught crash course in filmmaking.

With a cited budget of £250 (yes that is two hundred and fifty quid!) what he has conjured is nothing short of amazing. On the face of it, TSOD could potentially have been just another shoddily put together non budget farce with the ‘Grindhouse’ label pinned to it to paper over the gaping cracks. But from the very first frames the movie had an idiosyncratic spirit about it that vied for my attention. The opening titles for example employed a classic antiquated font while some subtle ‘celluloid scratches’ danced around the screens edge. Yes it’s obviously faked in post production but equally importantly it’s not overdone.

Quirky intro’s paying homage to exploitation flicks of yesteryear is one thing, but how did the following 80 minutes fare?

The first thing that stood out for me was the variety of camera angles utilised. Whether rooted firmly in the Surrey countryside with the lens peering upward or notable and effective extreme close ups, the movies guise could never be described as mundane. Some slick editing was also showcased exemplified in the initial scenes when our three leading ladies discourse is accompanied by some intimate roving shots of their hands. Their faces are conspicuously out of frame only for the film to cut to the lifeless head of a victim being carried. It’s these relatively simple but effectual edits that showcase a true element of passionate filmmaking. The characters had distinct traits but were unique enough not to be hackneyed stereotypes. Their personas and resulting dialogue was laced with humour that admittedly went a little into overdrive when it came to Craven the pseudo detective.

Style aside, this is a self-proclaimed ‘Slasher’ movie, so one burning question remains concerning the actual gore of the piece.

There is blood a plenty and by that I mean actual red liquid not just a mish-mash of pixels added in the aftermath of production. Again, given the absence of any notable financing, the effects are remarkably good. It would be easy to simply state the obvious observation that they are not the most realistic, but they are a pleasantly brutal mix of classic video nasty tributes and bizarre contemporary executions.

Eyes are gouged, limbs are lopped off, jutting trees impale one handed cyclists and bongs prove that as well as being smoking apparatus, they can bring life to a quite excruciating end!

But for all the visceral violence, my favourite sequence was an atmospherically built dream recollection that cunningly reeled the viewer in before providing a genuine jump.

The movie has appeared at a few UK film festivals and is currently vying for a distribution deal for the DVD market. If you are in intrigued about what you have read thus far, why not check out our exclusive interview with TSOD’s multi talented creator, Gav Chuckie Steel?

Whether his first movie makes it to DVD or not, something tells me this is not the last we are ever going to hear of him...

Review by Marc Lissenburg

For more information check out the official site here.

Written and directed by Gav Chuckie Steel