October 30th. The night before Halloween. To most, the day passes by without much fanfare. There’s nothing special about it. But the same can’t be said of those who have ever watched the 1994 cult film The Crow. The film is equal parts superhero flick and supernatural thriller, with more gothic style than you can shake an eyeliner at. The film’s legacy is marred with tragedy but despite that, the film has found its place in cinematic history.
The film takes place on October 30th, otherwise known as Devil’s Night in a supremely gothic version of Detroit. Rock musician Eric Draven and his fiance Shelly Webster were brutally murdered by a gang of hooligans. The nature of the killings leaves the impression that these killings were done in the name of sport. Eric and Shelley were to be married on Halloween, something the crime scene investigators thought to be unusual, while the violence inflicted was just another day on the job. See, Devil’s Night, also known as Mischief Night, was an illegal event that happened in Detroit (for real) that encouraged vandalism and arson. In The Crow, terror and murder are added to that list and there’s nothing the local police could do to stop it.
Eric and Shelly’s friend, the child Sarah goes to visit their grave on the anniversary a year later. A crow flies by and pecks at Eric’s headstone. That night, Eric is resurrected an immortal, whose spirit is tied to the crow’s and leaves with the sole objective of avenging his and his fiancé’s tragic murders. Thanks to some leftover makeup at his abandoned apartment, he dons a painted face, which has since become iconic and sets out to kill those who wronged him.
On paper, the movie sounds pretty standard-there isn’t much of a story really-but the reason why you have to watch the movie is the stellar performance by Brandon Lee. Son of Bruce Lee, Brandon was tragically killed on the set of the film with around a week left in production. A defective blank bullet severely injured the star, who died later in hospital. Lee gives a chilling yet heartwarming performance as Eric. Consumed by vengeance, he’s a cold and brutal spectre with not much in the way of sympathy for his killers. He undertakes almost ritualistic pleasure in killing the gang, who are true scum and villainy. But as the painted face ghost kills, he crosses paths with Sarah and Sergeant Albrecht, the officer who looked into his murder and sympathized with Sarah’s loss. There are brief flashbacks showcasing Eric’s life before the attack and we feel true sadness as Eric didn’t provoke anyone into attacking him, he and Shelly were completely innocent and died for no reason.
Despite being dead and on a revenge spree, his quiet interactions show that his humanity is still there and that Eric’s love for Shelly was nothing but honest and real. Reaffirming his love-and his loss-makes his conquest all the more tragic. As he takes life, he also gives something back to the citizens, such as taking away pain or addiction. He also has some darkly comedic lines, pointing out the irony of him being dead or quoting The Raven while also giving some advice we could all benefit from, such as there is no such thing as “trivial” in life, knowing it can end at any moment. The statement is made even eerier knowing Lee never got to see the final cut.
The movie also oozes style. Despite being a colour film, you’d be forgiven in thinking it was a black and white movie at first glance. It basks in its gothic tone, with cathedrals, silhouettes, nighttime setting dampened by rain and mid-nineties goth-rock soundtrack that includes music from The Cure, Nine Inch Nails Helmet and Rage Against The Machine, among others. The film makes numerous deviations from its graphic novel source material but one can argue that the film version, despite this, overcomes these more mainstream changes in favour of accessibility and Lee’s performance. Despite these deviations, the film looks very much like a graphic novel with its unorthodox camera angles and lighting. The film equally looks and feels like a film noir of the 40s and 50s, with exaggerated shadows making the night feel even more deadly.
Have you seen The Crow before or will you be checking it out for the first time? If so, you can easily access it via Amazon as it’s a harder film to find these days. Let us know in the comments and check out our latest on the Alien vs Predator franchise and our review of Netflix’ The Haunting of Hill House!