Sudden Unexplained Nocturnal Death Syndrome or SUNDS is a very long way of saying ‘They died in their sleep … we don’t know why …’, yet it has happened so frequently in the last century that science has had to provide a more authoritative sounding name for the verbal shrug of the shoulder, though if your loved one has just died from said condition, it wouldn’t reassure you much, it must be said.
Seemingly originating in Asia and following the spate of immigrants into the West, since 1977 thousands of people (usually men and of Oriental descent) have been recorded as dying of this unknown malady previously unheard of in the U.S, though in Thailand, Japan, China and the Philippines it is well known and goes by many names. Pokkuri disease, Bangungot, Dab tsog or Lai Tai (which translates into the cheery ‘sleep and die’ ), are all names for this accepted phenomenon thought to be caused by demons, evil spirits or Shadow people depending on the specific beliefs of the culture.
In 1980’s America, the Centre for Disease Control was called into investigates hundreds of unexplained deaths in the state of Kentucky. All of the victims died in their sleep, and after extensive autopsies and investigations, no medical cause of death could be determined. Using real interviews and situations that occurred interspersed with the dramatic interpretation of events, Shadow People was born.
The Walking Dead’s Dallas Roberts plays small time radio talk show host Charlie Crowe, who, through one of his callers, becomes embroiled in a conspiracy originating back to the nearby university. Unfortunately, the closer he gets to the truth, the more people start dropping like very sleepy flies. Cue a clash with the CDC investigator (played by Alison daughter of Eastwood), and some scary apparitions, that cause him to drink a lot of coffee just to keep the deadsys at bay.
Shadow People is a very clever blend of reality and drama, and is one of the best psychological horrors I have seen in a very long time. The acting was extremely believable; the plot was original and genuinely thought provoking, and the general style of the film was much more palatable than the ‘found footage’ dross that is being churned out every five minutes these days. Suspenseful and subtle, Dallas Roberts steals the show as the jaded, hard drinking radio host, the film is reminiscent of The Fourth Kind, and even psychological classics such as The Innocents or Bunny Lake is Missing.
Shadow People will stay with you a lot longer than you expected and stands as a stark reminder that doctors just do not have all of the answers quite yet …