in Shocktober

The Crow (1994)

1994’s The Crow is not a horror movie, but its main character paints his face like the wrestler Sting, so I guess it counts. I had wanted to see this movie for a while, since I’m a fan of director Alex Proyas’ followup, Dark City, and I’m definitely interested in catching up on all the well-regarded comic book movies that I missed while growing up. Maybe I can convince John to let me review some others, like Spawn and Blade next year…

So Devil’s Night is, or at least was, a thing in Detroit. On October 30, people get out there and do some serious shit, much more serious than TPing houses or spray painting, like starting fires and blowing stuff up. One fateful night, Police Sergeant Albrecht (Ernie Hudson) arrives at a horrific scene, where he finds a woman beaten and raped, and her fiance (Brandon Lee) dead after being shot, stabbed, and thrown out the window. He tries to comfort a young girl, Sarah (Rochelle Davis), but has to admit that the woman is going to die.

A year later, Sarah leaves flowers at the graves of the young couple, and as she departs, a crow lands on the man’s grave. Suddenly, the man bursts out of the earth, and heads back to his apartment. As his memories come back to him, the man (his name’s Eric, by the way) discovers he also has basic superpowers, like a superhuman healing factor and amazing reflexes. So he paints his face, VERY DRAMATICALLY.

Armed with his terrible grief and incredible abilities, Eric sets out to get revenge against the four men who killed him and his fiance and find out why they did it. We find out that all the street gangs in Detroit report to a man called Top Dollar (David Patrick Kelly), who calls the shots along with his magical sister (Bai Ling), who is also his lover even though this is years before Game of Thrones came out. But Eric is going to have to do a lot of killing before he can get to them.

So yeah, The Crow is pretty much an action movie. Like a lot of comic book movies, the stakes of most of the fights are pretty low, as Eric can’t be hurt. The movie makes up for it by making the four killers fun, over-the-top maniacs, and by showing Eric having a lot of fun coming up with clever ways to murder them. Also, Eric carries a guitar around with him because he was a musician in life, I guess.

Alex Proyas has a mixed filmography, but he has shown himself to be great a visually creating worlds. Even duds like I, Robot and Gods of Egypt had consistent, unmistakable, distinct looks to them. I don’t think The Crow is as amazing as Dark City, but it’s shadowy, desaturated look clearly was quite influential, and the opening shots of the burning city are terrific.

Of course, the real legacy of The Crow is the sad fact that Brandon Lee died making it due to a mistake with a prop gun. That alone is pretty tragic, but when you consider that his dad also died really young, it just sucks. This cemented this film as an emo favorite, even though the movie itself isn’t quintessentially emo… I think? I don’t know, what does it even really mean to be emo? I’m not going to research this. But I figured I had to bring it up.