...and for the second of this year’s Shocktober movies I’m sticking with the theme of the first, i.e. rockers from beyond the grave - I present The Crow.
Technically, I guess it’s not a Halloween movie as such, because the events of the film take place on Devil’s Night which is the night before Halloween - October 30.
In a run down part of the most run down city ever to appear on a cinema screen - a place that makes Gotham City a virtual Garden of Eden, a young couple are viciously attacked, beaten, raped and ultimately murdered on the eve of their wedding on the orders of a local gang boss/slum landlord.
A year later, to the day - a crow lands on the gravestone of Eric Draven (Brandon Lee) and his fiancé, who’ve been buried side by side and starts to peck at the stone, until Draven makes his way to the surface to take revenge on the gang responsible.
That’s a very simplified plot summary, and begs the question why is it in the line-up? Surely it’s more of a retribution movie than a Halloween horror? Well, yes - but it has the supernatural aspect of Draven as a rock musician coming back from the dead to exact revenge on the lowlife scum who mutilated and murdered his fiancé Shelly and shot him several times before throwing him out of a top floor window.
Draven is darker and more motivated even than Batman. He’s on a mission and nothing, short of an Asian witch (Bai Ling) capable of discerning that his power comes from the ever present crow can stop him. The witch, Myca is the sister of the main protagonist Top Dollar (Michael Wincott) who has some pretty creepy issues with his mysterious sibling.
He visits each of the gang, who are a misfit bunch consisting of a knife thrower, a motorhead car freak, a junkie and so on and dishes out his own justice, each meeting his end in a manner suiting his personality, multiple stabbing, car crash, overdose etc over the course of this one evening.
Brandon Lee plays this part perfectly. I’d go as far as to say that this is a role he was born to play. He’s vengeful when needed, he’s flippant and playful when it serves his purpose to throw his opponents off, and in the flashback scenes he’s tender with his fiancé so that even though Shelly (Sofia Shinas) has minimal screen time, the audience really feel his loss as the bond between them is torn apart brutally.
It’s one of the great tragedies of the film industry that Lee sadly passed away during filming and when a stunt involving a pistol loaded with blanks was fired too close to him, causing internal bleeding which proved fatal. In his performance here, he seems to be more at ease with the less physical aspects of acting than his father was. Lee the elder is, to my mind the greatest martial artist I’ve ever seen to date, but Lee the younger is the more convincing actor if that makes any sense. I haven’t seen lee’s other two movies Showdown in Little Tokyo with Dolph Lundgren and Rapid Fire, but feel pretty much that this is the film he’ll be remembered for.
Though Alex Proyas does an excellent job of bringing the nastiest war zone of a city to life, I kept thinking in terms of the set design being reminiscent of Tim Burton’s style, and from there - wondering what this film would’ve turned out as had Burton directed it.
There have been, to date, two sequels - and I haven’t bothered with either. This is despite the fact that Rob Zombie has contributed to the soundtrack of the first follow up. Also, no Brandon Lee - no Crow. As far as I’m concerned, the story was told here and the notion of Draven popping up out of the grave when he’s needed, as though answering some supernatural bat signal dampens the effect of The Crow’s moving ending.
One final thought to those who keep proposing a remake.
You can get a copy of this cult masterpiece by clicking here and heading over to Amazon. (I advise getting the widescreen edition I'm linking to rather than the pan & scan fullscreen.)
Copyright © 2010 - 2012 Robin Pierce. All Rights reserved.