Written by Andy Kubica
Right off the top I guess I will have to say I am not a normal connoisseur or vapid watcher of “independent” cinema, not really because I am not interested or do not enjoy unusual, lower budget stories. I guess I would say it is mainly because it is easier to consume the spoon-fed entertainment we are told to watch through advertising. Only maybe within the last few years have I really begun seeking out the smaller, harder to find films mainly because Hollywood has run out of ideas and continually remakes, reboots and sequalises themselves to death making very little with any imagination or thought.
With Crucify, writer (and co-director) J. Arcane along with co-director Paul Erskine manage to craft a flick unlike anything I have seen recently. Described as a “neon Noir thriller”, the film chronicles the misadventures of teenagers Raven (Shanel Maida) and Nic (Dylen Michael Guiry) as they discover the depths, pitfalls, horrors and nightmarish scenery throughout an unusually eerie haunted house which doubles as a crime scene. After Nic asks Raven to the prom, they both begin to wander the foreboding dwelling, encountering any number of freakish images including crucifixes, blood stained walls and even a creepy music box which looks like something Tim Burton would have made out of a figurine by M.I. Hummel. At different points within the film the two lovers both like and detest each other, but are apart most of the time delving into the depths of the demon riddled domicile. There are screams, voices and sounds of dripping water present as the twists and turns of the experience are slowly revealed to the audience.
The best thing the movie has going for it is its style. Having a particular dislike for movies described as having “style over substance”, the neon colours and vibrant shadowy art direction work well this time with this movie’s ambience. The shifting between bright pinks and brooding blues and greens helped enhance the emotion where our heroes encounter a force particularly nasty or unsettling. The rapid editing in certain scenes helps underscore the peril or uncertainty happening onscreen and was also intriguing. The style of filmmaking here was through the use of many close ups on the two actors’ faces maybe because of the lack of large sets and set decoration and was distracting at times. Longer shots, varied camera angles or more striking, engaging set pieces would have made this more enjoyable.
As I was watching, it seemed to me that the filmmakers are fans of the work of Gaspar Noé as they employed techniques similar to some of his work including the nightmarish 2nd half of his film “Climax” as well as the vivid, colourful dreamlike visions in “Enter the Void”. I was able to draw comparisons to both of these works although Noé’s work is much more polished even in its ambiguity. It is interesting to see filmmakers pushing new ground and trying to give an audience something they have not seen 100 times; however, there was not enough substance here to keep me interested throughout. The fiendish wandering of the protagonists tired quickly as it was difficult to even understand what was happening at times and I felt more disengaged as the film progressed.
The two lead actors were interesting in their personification of their roles, but weren’t given enough to work with. The dialogue throughout the film was minimal, mostly stacked in the front half of the story, which meant they predominately were tasked with showing emotion with varied facial expressions while they reacted to events happening around them. You could tell based on their performances their characters cared for each other, but not much depth was given unfortunately.
A bright spot was the film’s soundtrack. Singer Lia Scott vocalised several “songs” by co-director Arcane which consisted of some haunting melodies mostly playing in the background or haunting the leads as they went about their journeys. Her voice is captivating and sultry at the same time and leant went to the film’s dialogue.
After coming away from two viewings, I was left with a feeling of uneasiness based on a few of the images I had seen, remembering the unique kaleidoscope of neon forests and upside down crosses lining the brooding mansion walls, but ultimate disappointment in that the final product wasn’t more interesting. I can handle more than my average share of vague and nonlinear storytelling, but there was no story to tell and the remnants of what was left was scattered and melancholy.
Verdict: 2.5 out of 5
CRUCIFY is available to watch on Amazon Prime UK and Amazon Prime US. It might not have been the neon nightmare for Andy, but it’s sure to captivate those who revel in disillusioned ambiguity.