THE LEAGUE OF LEGEND KEEPERS: SHADOWS *** USA 2019 Dir: Elizabeth Blake-Thomas. 72 mins
Beneath the awful title is a pleasant enough junior horror adventure from the family-friendly “Mother-Daughter Entertainment” production company overseen by British actress / co-writer Isabella Blake-Thomas and her mother Elizabeth. Isabella plays Sophie, a high school student who moves to California (just like Cairo – but with slightly better toilets) with her parents (Michael Piccirilli, Abigail Titmuss) and six-year-old little sis (Olivia Jellen). They’re a family of archaeologists pursuing holy grails around the world – and an all-powerful force of evil is on its own malevolent mission to obtain the infamous “Fifth Pendant”. Also in the mix are a geeky wannabe young scientist (Gabe Eggerling), a school bully (Jake Brennan), a sympathetic teacher (Tayla Fernandez) and an amusing Richard Tyson as a big, beardy American archaeologist with a similar yen for Indiana Jones type hats. Conceived as a young female INDIANA JONES with nods to SCOOBY DOO (note the Halloween party in which spooky goings on are mistaken for costumes), this combines what the BBFC might label “mild supernatural peril” with some light US / UK culture clash humour and a quite effective central villain. It’s not as self-conscious as certain other contemporary horror aimed at kids, though it does get bogged down in exposition and the array of mostly bland characters make it feel more like an extended TV pilot than a stand-alone movie. Nonetheless, Blake-Thomas is really appealing as the heroine, and it doesn’t over-rely on the kind of large-scale set pieces that are (in any case) beyond its FX budget. The sentimental wrap up might undo some goodwill for more cynical viewers.
Review by Steven West