One little plot device that TV seems to have over the big screen is the ability of shadows to have a life of their own. The shadow may simply do things that do not correspond to the human figure casting the silhouette or the shadow may actually enjoy its own form of a separate life. In some cases, the shadow is not even related to an identifiable human figure. Perhaps this plot is too slight to construct an entire 90 minutes of feature film around. Don’t confuse the living shadows of TV land with “The Shadow” series of movies. These creepy shadow figures are not Lamont Cranston.
The New Twilight Zone
You know how there are some episodes of a TV show that stay with you long after you have seen it, even if you only see it once? Such is the case of “The Shadow Man” that was a segment of the Twilight Zone reboot of the 1980’s. A creepy quality permeates this story about a shadowy figure who is serial killing young children in a small town. At the same time, the young protagonist of the story is dealing with bullies while trying to impress a young classmate. The two stories meet in the form of Shadow Man who lives beneath the kid’s bed. He won’t harm the person under whose bed he lives and so the kid really doesn’t have a big problem with the Shadow Man’s serial killing. Especially since his invincibility makes him seem brave when he is the only one at school willing to come out after dark. Of course, this being “The Twilight Zone” you can bet that there is irony involved in the existence of this shadow with a life of its own.
Yes, that is Mr. Monk himself with the killer shadow on “The X-Files.” The episode titled “Soft Light” features guest star Tony Shalhoub as an average Joe (who happens to be a physicist) with a distinctly X-Files quirk. Anyone who crosses his shadow is fatally doomed. This particular TV shadow with a life of its own has much todo with dark matter and comes from the same twisted mind that brought you Walter White.
Here’s the thing about shadows with a life of their own. Turn off the light and you seem to take away any power they may possess. Or so one of the victims of The Dark Man in a “Haven” episode that fits this plot device discovers. The Dark Man is really just the shadow of a normal man, but there is a bit of psychological edginess to this shadow’s life of its own. You might say that the shadow of The Dark Man is the personification of repressed urges come to life. What we humans cannot bring ourselves to do, perhaps the outline of our inner selves can. Food for thought.
Bullwinkle and Friends
“Bullwinkle’s Corner” was a segment on the Rocky and Bullwinkle show in which the big moose from Frostbite Falls would recite poetry while getting into some visual effects trouble. During a recitation of “My Shadow” by Robert Louis Stevenson, the trouble comes in the form of Bullwinkle J. Moose’s own shadow. It is not going outside the realm of possibility to imagine a young Francis Ford Coppola catching this particular segment of “Bullwinkle’s Corner” and being highly influenced by it. So much so that some decades later the concept of a person’s shadow not accurately reflecting their movements would be recreated in Coppola’s “Bram Stoker’s Dracula.” Which, in turn, would be magnificently parodied in a “Treehouse of Horror” segment on “The Simpsons.”