Movie Review : The Crow (1994)
Unlike for BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA, I had seen THE CROW several times before. It's THAT movie most teenagers owned in VHS in the nineties. Even if some kid didn't own any movies, there was still a chance you'd find a copy of THE CROW something in his own. That or a poster of Brandon Lee in all his flamboyant gothness. Point is, it's a movie I kept fond memories of and yet, Josie had never seen it before. She's the one in our couple who really likes movies about sexy creatures of the night, so why not get her acquainted with patient zero? Truth is, THE CROW withstood the test of time rather pretty well due to one important factor. It's a good movie. Maybe it's a little silly, but it's a well-thought, artful film based on a comic that was a well-thought, artful project in itself. The margin for mediocrity was pretty slim.
It's not a subtle movie. Narratively, it's pretty blunt business. Eric Draven (Lee) and his fiancée Shelly Webster (Sofia Shinas) are a cute little goth couple about to get married on Halloween. Unfortunately, they get brutally murdered in a home invasion on ''Devil's Night'' which is somewhat of a real thing in Detroit. One year later, Draven comes back from the dead with a chip on his shoulder. He's a man on a mission: he must get revenge on the men who ruined his life and make things right in Detroit. But it's not as easy as it seems. Eric got actually killed by mindless boneheads, but they work for a man who's anything but mindless. Top Dollar (Michael Wincott) is a sadistic pipsqueak who thinks he's Peter Steele.
Now let me get this out of the way. The legend wants that Brandon Lee died during that badass shootout scene (who may very well be my all-time favorite shootout scene). But here's how Brandon Lee really died. It's during the scene Funboy (Michael Massee) murders Eric in the flashbacks. They kept those scenes for the last week, because Lee wouldn't have to wear his makeup. The bullets in the gun were not real blanks, they were bullets without any powder *. But there was still a casing lodged in the chamber when Massee shot at Lee and its that very casing that perforated one of Lee's organs. That kind of a firearms cautionary tale right there.
So yeah, THE CROW doesn't that the most sophisticated narrative. The bad guys are bad guys because they are extremely rude to everybody else and each other and the good guys are good because they are kind. It's a movie that appealed so viscerally to people because it feeds on a fantasy of revenge. It's human nature to see ourselves as the little guy and to create romantic fantasies of revenge in our minds when we feel we've been wronged. THE CROW is kind of that ultimate fantasy put on film. All the underdogs around the world (or people who felt like they were) watched this movie with visceral satisfaction. I have never read the comic book and I can believe the plotlines are more intricate in James O'Barr's work. But it's still more catharsis than anything else.
THE CROW is so gleefully goth. There are all the classic goth themes involved: death, cemeteries, cathedrals, night, paranormal, etc. There also are winks to Edgar Allan Poe's work (as intended by the character's creator James O'Barr), notably THE RAVEN and FALL OF THE HOUSE USHER. But despite embracing those century old themes with such enthusiasm, it's a very dynamic movie, visually. Director Alex Proyas tries a lot of stuff and it not afraid of ridicule. That's how he crafted one of the most detailed and atmospheric shooting scenes of all time, the showdown at Top Dollar's hideout. The broken, buzzing light is the detail that ties everything together for me. Makes the scene come alive like no other. Atmosphere is everything for Alex Proyas and in THE CROW, he created something unique with it.
Viewing THE CROW after over a decade was somewhat delightful. Given that the narrative is a little silly and not so engaging for rational people without a chip on their shoulders, it's still fun to indulge in this crazy fantasy of revenge and since the most is so beautifully done, it's still artistically engaging. It has gained a mythical status in the film industry given the eerie way the son of Bruce Lee died shooting it, but it has merit on its own. THE CROW is a gothic movie that gets things right and that's not afraid to try and to take bold decision to create haunting visuals. It's a rightfully legendary movie that will set the standard higher for every comic book adaptation you'll watch from now on.
* Point being, it explodes but doesn't actually shoots anything.