From the moment “Shadow in the Cloud” opens with the WWII news reel animation talking about gremlins (yes, you heard right…but its actually pretty fitting since “gremlin” is the term used by WWII pilots to describe a mischievous invisible being that caused engine trouble and mechanical difficulties) you know you are in one helluva ride. Director Roseanne Liang definitely nailed the ’80s cult horror vibe from the dialogue to the soundtrack. And its dope to have a badass female directing this genre film!
The film opens up to a frantic beginning — a female pilot from the air force women’s auxiliary is trying to find the bomber she is catching a ride on, but of course its a dark and stormy night and something just seems a little off, like her mind is playing tricks on her. Once aboard the B-17 Flying Fortress, WAAF officer Maude Garrett (Chloë Grace Moretz) instructs the all-male crew that she is on a strictly confidential mission and is carrying a package of the utmost importance. While for a split second the crew is fascinated by the fact that there is a female on board — the first they’ve been in contact with for a while — that soon turns into chauvinist anger, distrust and annoyance.
Once airborne, the crew forces Garrett to the ball turret hanging from the belly of the bomber. While cramped and isolated, she thinks she sees something out on the wing of the bomber and alerts the crew. Of course the all-male crew writes it off as “female hysteria” and continues to talk about how women are not cut out for being soldiers. As things start to get stranger and stranger on board the B-17 with mechanical malfunctions and weird sightings, the crew eventually accuses Garrett of being a “Mata Hari” spy because she refuses to disclose her mission or the contents of her bag. Once the goof-troop crew on board finally starts to listen to Garrett, its much too late.
Amongst all of the action and horror, we come to find out what secret Garrett has been protecting and its quite the secret. But this also leads to an awkward tender moment of the film when she tell her story and the crew listens in rapt attention — which doesn’t fit because they’ve cut her off, called her crazy and tried to undermine her at every turn before. It doesn’t make sense that they are quiet now. This whole relationship storyline just seems a little forced. But the utter outlandishness and bad-assery totally makes up for any awkward moments. Garrett’s heroic feats totally shuts down all of the misogyny that was thrown her way when she saves the crew’s ass time and time again.
You’ve got to give Liang props for totally leaning into this genre and playing it full force. She also reworked most of the script (after the controversy with writer Max Landis the film tried to downplay his involvement) and really went for the 80’s feel in the romance/war/horror/action hybrid with a feminist slant. Although the film is kind of all over the place, the crew is very stereotypical and somewhat annoying (so much so you don’t care if they’re saved or not)…as is that damn gremlin and just somewhat bananas, you can’t say that it isn’t a fun time! Even the interesting way in which the scenes where the crew members are being attacked and its just them being filmed in a black space is pretty cool. There’s lots of white-knuckled freaky mayhem. In the end, you have a badass mother willing do anything to protect their child and it made for quite the enthralling film.