Why are people afraid of the dark? The imagination runs wild as we imagine what lurks in the shadows. We find out what exactly those shadows are made of in The League of Legend Keepers: Shadows. This film is like if Indiana Jones and Goosebumps had a baby and put it on a children’s/teen’s network TV. It is entertaining with endearing characters and a fun storyline. Some issues with dialogue and cinematography attempt to drag this film into the shadows among other awful films. But this film has enough charm to shine bright and cast those shadows aside.
This film is billed as a “horror film for children” and that alone intrigued me. I wanted to see what was actually considered a “children’s horror film” and the film delivered on this concept. Not without flaws, but the delivery was strong enough that I think the chosen description is justified without question. The League of Legend Keepers: Shadows is definitely spookier than your standard run-of-the-mill children’s horror film. Incorporating elements of archaeology, folklore, ancient evil, and possession and presenting it in such a way that is acceptable for younger audiences is no easy task. So, a job well done to the cast and crew for succeeding in such an endeavor.
A perfect example of such success is the opening sequence. Young Sophie Carson (Isabella Blake-Thomas) narrates a story for us and sets the stage for character introduction and relevant background information. Topics of death and ancient evil are discussed but it is done so well and (Blake-Thomas’s) performance is so personable viewers young and old are intrigued and unafraid to pursue the film either. And the use of some of the special effects (blacked out eyes, voice changing) was scarier than I would think to use in a children’s horror film but it was done in such a way that is still appropriate for children.
However, for all its redeeming qualities, there are some unsightly burdens this film has been cursed to bear. The biggest issue with this film is the inconsistencies. The storyline itself is quite good. The quest for objects of insurmountable power has been a tried and true storyline (think Lord of the Rings, all the Indiana Jones films, and Avengers Endgame). But this storyline has jumps and skips that cause more frustration than anything else. For example, on Sophie’s first day in a new school the teacher happens to be talking about the very thing her father has spent his entire career looking for. Which would make a lot more sense had there been one or two more lines of dialogue to explain why the class was learning about that topic that day. And the entire film speaks of 5 pendants, but at one point in the film, 6 pendants are mentioned. This threw me off and was probably a simple error. But I am astonished that no one picked up on such a large error. These are just two of several cases where an extra line or two of dialogue or a small change in dialogue would have made all the difference in terms of continuity.
Along with a choppy storyline came some choppy film cuts. Some scenes felt cut short or disjointed. As Ohanzee gains power and the town needs to flee from the grasp of his shadow figures, our heroes find themselves in these tunnels and the way it is filmed, it’s not quite clear how they got there or how they knew to go there in the first place. Some shot changes may have answered those questions.
The most redeeming quality of this film is the cast, specifically the children. They are all quite likable and each have something unique and important to offer the film. Edison (Gabe Eggerling) is bright and magnetic and the perfect example of a personable goofy sidekick. Emma (Olivia Jellen) is an adorable little sister type and audiences will melt every time she is on screen. Johnny (Jake Brennan) and his squad (Laura Kristyne, Charlie Wright) are classic bullies in a kid’s film with an added layer you don’t expect which makes them more likable. And Sophie (Blake-Thomas) is such a strong character and a good example for young viewers.
Some of the aspects of this film are a little cheesy, but those issues become less of an issue due to the family nature of the film. The film becomes more about the characters’ charm and there is plenty of cheese and charm to go around. The entire film has a “Disney channel original movie” feel to it and as a millennial growing up on those types of film, I can fully appreciate it. The ideal formula for young viewers includes a great and endearing leading character, fun and loveable sidekick, goofy adults that leave the heavy lifting up to the kids, a formidable (but not impossible) foe, and (of course) a very happy ending. And The League of Legend Keepers: Shadows used all these ingredients to deliver a strong result.