Midlands Review - Growing Shadows
By midlandsmovies, Jul 29 2019 06:00PM
Directed by Sophie Black
With her debut in 1966, Poison Ivy is one of Batman’s most enduring enemies yet has also been portrayed as a love interest of Bruce Wayne as well as a key part of Gotham’s rogues gallery.
Often depicted as a morally-ambiguous villain – who does wrong things for the right reasons – she is the central character in a new fan-film short from Derby filmmaker Sophie Black.
Black has become somewhat of an auteur in the region with her flowery gothic fantasy visions seen in both Songbird (our review) and Night Owls (review here). And her recurring themes of make-believe and creation sit nicely within this world where natural surroundings are corrupted by criminal goings-on.
We open at Arkham Asylum, the famous psychiatric ward in Batman’s Gotham City and we see Poison Ivy herself in a cramped cell. A suitably Danny Elfman-style score harking back to Tim Burton’s two Batman films is a nice touch, as well as setting the dark tone of the short.
Whilst Poison Ivy was played by Uma Thurman in the campy (and horrendous) Batman and Robin in 1997, the filmmaker’s nod to Burton is the first of many welcome nods to the caped crusader’s gothic origins.
The prison is lit with green light on Ivy’s green skin but her blood-red hair is a flash of stark crimson hinting upon her deadly deeds.
Poison Ivy is played excellently by Aislinn De’ath who delivers well-written cryptic dialogue in a perfect American accent and Black has done a great job of hiding the film’s Midlands “roots” to create a convincing American style scenario.
We discover that someone is using Ivy’s murderous methods to infect people who could destroy the environment. And she discusses her situation with a man who arrives at her cell to whom she later refers to as Bruce. Of course, Mr. Bruce Wayne (played by Robert Dukes).
As they spar back and forth through the bars of the cell, Bruce asks “Do you think this is a joke?” (well I know one character from Gotham who might) and we find Bruce is infected himself. Part of a larger scheme set in motion by Ivy perhaps? Well, you’ll have to watch for yourself to find out.
The production design has always been fantastic in Black’s films and the same goes here as well. Although for me a wider variety of camera angles would have been a bit more creative to keep it visually interesting given the limited locations in the short’s 10 minutes.
With talk of environmental disaster, Ivy’s frustration builds and we hear a ‘growing’ cacophony as she holds her head in her hands and, wait, was that a cackling laugh I heard in the sound mix? Possibly.
As the short concludes we get a flowering mind, body and spirit (more of Black’s familiar themes) and the film admirably explores a little-seen character of the Batman mythology. An interesting concept, Growing Shadows is another fan-film from the region that uses the superhero genre as their backdrop.
Joey Lever’s Spider-Man 2 - Another World is a very different feature-length playground but with so many Marvel and DC films released in the last 5 years, it’s great to see filmmakers deliver their own local versions of pre-established fan favourites.
And in the end, by stepping up to that challenge, Sophie Black has reinterpreted this classic DC villainess whilst also exploring her own dark obsessions in this greenhouse of horrors.