Crow is a clear attempt to create a British eco-horror, focusing on the horror of evil modernism and greed in the face of natural beauty and serenity; however, the film is so poorly handled in terms of its execution and expression that the original message becomes ensnared in a thicket of cliché, predictability and uninspiring design, to the point where it becomes redundant.

When wealthy developer Tucker strong arms his way into a land deal, he finds opposition in the form of settlers who refuse to move. Increasingly desperate, Tucker takes heinous and immoral routes to remove them and begin the destruction of the forest in order to build a mansion in its place; however, one of the settlers will not be defeated and his connection to the land will lead him to become a vessel for the revenge of nature itself against the man who has trespassed and defiled its majesty for the sake of his own greedy ambition.

This narrative holds a very clear and present dichotomy that structures the emotional and moral perspective of the film: good, pure nature vs evil, corrupting modernism. As the film unfolds, this dichotomy is reflected in the twin figures of Tucker and Crow. As the embodiment of this modern ill, Tucker pushes further and further into deplorable acts in the pursuit of his desire, wronging nature in the process, while Crow gallivants through the wood as he prepares to help even the odds and turn nature itself back on Tucker in the ultimate act of karmatic revenge. The problem with this angle is, quite simply, it’s abundant in its obviousness and feels tired in its execution; it’s a morality tale that’s played so dishearteningly straight and uncomplicated in obvious vilification of one figure and divinity of the other, as well as the heavy handed morality of the central message, that the characters take on the shape of caricatures and any attempt at genuine tension or dramatic momentum is feels hollow and exhausting rather than thrilling.

It’s clear that director Wyndham Price held a vision to add an extra layer of engagement through a lyrical narration that plays over the events with a sense of unwarranted gravitas, and explore the relationship between naturalism and spiritualism as Crow’s relationship with his environment becomes ever symbiotic. The ambition of this desire can’t be faulted, but it is deployed in such staid and un-engaging manner that it almost comes across as arrogant in its bloated self-importance; the visuals are flat and fail to enhance a sense of the world as a vital, expressive space, and at its worst, even be worth caring to invest an attachment in. Although this is clearly unintentional, it’s simply another symptom of the overall misguided direction of the film as a whole. It’s lack of ambiguity stands in sharp contrast to other ecologically focused horrors, particularly Colin Eggleston’s Long Weekend, which addresses a very similar message focusing on nature turning against modernity and human destruction in the guise of a strained couple on a weekend break, but doing so without ever explicitly confirming the pitfalls that befall them are the clear act of vengeful nature, creating a space in which the fragility of the characters and their relationship is foreground reinforcing the horror, rather than dispelling it, which is exactly the problem that plagues Crow.

Amid this turgid and un-inspiring blend of cliché and unoriginality, there is one glimmering spark of quality in the form of lead actor Tom Rhys Harries as the titular Crow. Skittish and emotionally available in a way no single other character in the film even comes close to approaching; Harries imbues Crow with a real sense of fragility that at once makes him vulnerable…and achingly dangerous at the same time, as his world comes under more threat and he pushes back against those encroaching. Furthermore, his performance suggests as much a mental deteriorating as spiritual empowering within Crow, something that could have truly added an essential layer of complexity to the film, but one that is completely discarded with the narrative painfully embracing the obvious route of ludicrously literal metaphor and fantasy over any chance of ambiguity and psychological engagement, as the film trudges onward in spite of the best efforts of Harries to create a genuine character.

Ultimately, Crow is a crushingly bland disappointment, whose awkward combination of tired cliché and convoluted story telling clips the wings of any potential to emerge as a genuine work of eco-horror, in spite of a promising lead performance from Harries, and deteriorating into an uninspired husk, bereft of real engagement with the message it tries so desperately to ram down the audience’s throats.

 

Horror Channel Frightfest review: Crow
1.5Overall Score
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About The Author

Matthew Hammond is a full time cinephile, specializing in cult, art house and 1980’s cinema. While film is his overwhelming passion, Matthew has been known to enjoy comic books, Sherlock Holmes stories and a good film related T-shirt. Feel free to email me with any questions or comments: mattpaul61@o2.co.uk