If you wish to go to the current Fangoria site, you may click the top logo, "Home" or "News" links. Or click here.
Drive-in-style horror isn’t the only kind of cinema they
don’t make like they used to back in the ’70s. Charles de Lauzirika’s
psychological thriller CRAVE is the kind of tough, uncompromising character study
that Hollywood used to turn out with regularity, and should be supported and
treasured when it appears today.
A world premiere at the current Fantasia festival in Montreal, CRAVE isn’t categorically a horror film, though it does employ
horrifically bloody imagery and shares many other concerns with the genre.
Among them is the blurring of the lines between hero and villain, as embodied
in Aiden (Josh Lawson), a Detroit crime-scene photographer who traffics in
images of grisly death and, perhaps not too surprisingly, has them running
through his head as well. With no real friends other than a detective he calls
“Pete the heat” (Ron Perlman, looking styled to resemble Tom Atkins), Aiden
spends a lot of time talking to himself in inner dialogues we’re made privy to
on the soundtrack. We also witness his fantasies of dealing with the people who
frustrate or upset him, which tend to employ the application of a firearm or
sledgehammer. Yet as an early scene demonstrates, he’s the type of guy who’s
too cowed by life to actually resort to violence…isn’t he?
Lauzirika has had an illustrious career assembling DVD
supplements and documentaries, most notably for BLADE RUNNER and the ALIEN
series special editions, though his feature directorial debut (which he
scripted with Robert Lawton) doesn’t wear any past influences on its sleeve.
There are echoes, of course, of TAXI DRIVER (Lawton’s original pitch was
“Travis Bickle meets Walter Mitty”) and other pushed-to-the-breaking-point pictures
like FALLING DOWN, with CRAVE managing the neat trick of both making us fearful
of what Aiden might be capable of and engaging us in his fantasies of personal
retribution. The over-the-top gore seen in these occasional daydreams is
tempered by the fact that we’ve probably all had thoughts like this from time
to time, and Aiden’s psychological profile is identifiable enough that we want
to see him overcome his demons.
Hope for such salvation comes in the form of Virginia (Emma
Lung), the pretty girl occupying the next apartment over. In a vulnerable place
due to friction with her boyfriend Ravi (Edward Furlong), Virginia starts to
take a shine to Aiden, though he has a problem with speaking his mind
(sometimes overlapping with his voiceovered thoughts, to amusing effect) that
leads to awkward moments. The thorny relationship that develops between these
two dented souls is fully realized in multiple emotional dimensions by Lawson
and Lung, both actually Australians who have acted together in the past, but
were coincidentally cast opposite each other here—to excellent effect. Lawson’s
portrait of a man wrestling with his basest instincts meshes perfectly with
Lung’s portrayal of a young woman who has a lot of love to give but is guarded
about whom she gives it to. Just as good is Perlman, wonderfully low-key as a
gently cynical sounding board and voice of reason for Aiden.
As CRAVE proceeds, the violence and other bad behavior start
to seep out of Aiden’s thoughts and into his life, as he either finds or puts
himself in situations that threaten to propel him into very unpleasant
territory. As Lauzirika keeps you guessing about which of these might lead
Aiden and/or Virginia to bad ends, he eschews easy visual corollaries to the
grimness of the scenario. How nice to see a dark, gritty thriller that achieves
that atmosphere without resorting to the monochrome and grain that have become
visual clichés of the form; the director and his cinematographer, William Eubank, go for
naturalistic colors and bring a number of well-chosen locations to life as a
realistic environment for Aiden’s downward spiral to play out in. The sound is
also exceptional, particularly the full use of directional effects when Aiden
has mental conversations with himself.
For this and many other reasons, CRAVE deserves to be seen
in a theater, and by as many people as possible. Here’s hoping that an
adventurous distributor picks up this harrowing, sometimes mordantly humorous,
occasionally brutal but never gratuitous odyssey into a damaged, fully realized
psyche. It’s one of the best films to appear this year, and a wide audience
should be allowed to find out why.
JOIN OUR COMMUNITY AND BE THE FIRST TO KNOW ABOUT NEWS, CONTESTS, EVENTS AND MORE!
All contents © 2011 Fangoria Entertainment