Horror and martial arts hybrid that does a lot better at the martial arts than the horror but is nevertheless a fun little fight packed shocker that pushes its sparse budget to the limit to deliver as much martial arts mayhem as it can in under 90 minutes.
An Voaen (D.Y. Sao) is a former gang member now wandering warrior in what appears to be a dystopian future. Hearing of a job to be a night watchman at a rundown former hospital, that is now home to the lost and vagrant, he takes the role and gets to know the inhabitants. However, the hospital/former asylum is also home to some very bad dudes known as the Four Horseman who seem hell-bent on kidnapping the facility’s children in an effort to ascend and bring about the apocalypse. An Voaen becomes their default protector, his own past coming back to haunt him as he’s actually a reincarnated version of himself now controlled by a powerful entity called Hanuman. Thus he (eventually) embraces the power the deity has given him and unleashes his super-duper fight skills on the Four Horsemen and their goons to save the hospital and its inhabitants.
‘Shadow Master’ has got a lot going on, attempting to give equal time and focus to the horror, supernatural and action elements meaning it gets a little muddled on occasion. It’s trying to do a lot with little but for the most part it succeeds due to the enthusiasm of the cast and crew. Certainly smacking of the hey-we’ve-been-given-an-abandoned-building-to-use-for-cheap-lets-make-a-movie vibe, the makers may be restricted by setting and sets but manage to create a weird and dangerous world the characters inhabit. There are some cool character/creature designs considering the budget and the film is well made and moves at a good pace for the most part.
Proceedings do get a little muddled come the midway point and the scenes of An Voaen coming to terms with now being the host for the deity Hunaman do drag on a bit and get in the way of all the awesome action. Still, as mentioned, the characters’ design is pretty cool, the makers also delivering some cool gore as well as plenty of incredible fight action. Lead and co-fight choreographer D.Y. Sao impressively cuts loose in a surfeit of well mounted fights scenes. Featuring various fighting styles, the action is crisp and clear and satisfyingly crunchy, and one can see producer Prachya Pinkaew’s fingerprints all over them: the fight style reminiscent of his action hits ‘Ong Bak’ and ‘Warrior King’. It all builds to an awesomely epic extended one-on-one between D.Y. Sao and bad dude Brian Le (‘The Paper Tigers’, ‘Everything Everywhere all at Once’) that is incredible and worth watching the film for alone.
The non-linear narrative does fog proceedings somewhat, the thin budget often shows, and the sometimes-surreal vibe may not be for all but as a weird concoction of ‘Fist of the North Star’, ‘Hellraiser’ and ‘Ong Bak’, ‘Shadow Master’ is some fight packed fright fun for the most part that sticks to its own path and certainly delivers some superb fight sequences for the fight film fans out there.