Friday, 21 September 2012

Film Dissection: Blip: The Crow (SPOILERS)



Film - The Crow



Our Classification: Revenge
Language: English
Rating: 10/10
Notable Actors:  

Brandon lee (Tragically died on set)
Michael Massee (24)
Michael Wincott (Alien: Resurrection)
Ernie Hudson (Ghost Busters)
Tony Todd (Final Destination)


The Story

Eric Draven and his fiancée, Shelley Webster, are assaulted by a gang one one night in their studio apartment. Shelley is raped and beaten, Eric is shot, stabbed and thrown out of the window. Sarah is a young girl who was regularly looked after by the couple, who, after their deaths, is left alone being looked after by her mother Darla who has fallen in with drug addiction and a member of the gang. She is partly looked after by Albrecht, a police officer who attended to the scene.

A crow arrives one year later - to the day - and stands atop Eric's gravestone awakening him and causing him to scramble his way out of the grave. Upon discovering that he is essentially invincible due to his ability to immediately recover any wounds and not suffer pain and after a short detour back to the broken and abandoned apartment, where he suffers powerful flashbacks of the event, he sets out on an ordered journey of revenge.


He rather easily, and with a certain Alighierian flair, kills his way up the hierarchy of the gang until he reaches the upper echelons, where he finally encounters difficulty. Top Dollar and Grange, the final antagonists have the help of a mystic, who reveals that the crow is Eric's source of undead power. Grange wounds the crow with a rifle and then wounds Eric, who isn't able to heal. The final battle ensues, with the mystic being killed rather viciously by the crow, Albrecht being wounded and Top Dollar being thrown off the church roof and being impaled on a gargoyle. 

Finally, the film ends with Sarah visiting the cemetery where Eric and Shelley are buried.

Note: This plot summary is vague and brief because I feel the details of the film warrant full discussion rather than glossing over.


Dissection

Death weighs heavily on us all.

I'll tackle this scene by scene, for the sake of the thematic developments. 

Despite reputation as a fun death movie, this film is a shining example of simple, powerful allegory told in a gorgeously dark and stylish way. The rape and murder is shown, piece by piece, throughout the film, although nothing particularly new is revealed it serves as a way to keep the intention behind Eric's actions constantly in the viewer's mind.  The gang force their way in and begin tearing up the place, mocking Shelley as they do so. By the time they finish abusing the apartment and its occupants, it's clear that regret and remorse are not vices suffered by the gangmembers.

Contrary to the obvious theme, I don't see Eric's ressurection as a ghost, a spirit or any true element of Eric that is left, or that returns. I see it as the personification of the weight and pressure that the event has caused. The enforcer of its effects on the eternal souls of the gang, you could say. An important set-up for a later pay off is that when Eric touches important people and objects or when he goes to a relevant place, he has overwhelming flashbacks that contain all the intensity of the memory in perfect recollection. Initially he goes back to the apartment and remembers the life he had with Shelley: They were only one day off of getting married (on Halloween), they were more than happy with eachother and with Sarah. He sees a harlequin mask on a make-up mirror and it sparks a brief flash of his simple fun with Shelley. He adopts the style of the mask (Joker-esque white face with exagerrated black eyes and lips) for his own face and follows the crows instructions (shown through the crow's eyes) to Tin-Tin, the first member of the gang.

Indicative of the over-the-top style of the whole film, Eric dives off of a roof and approaches Tin-Tin, who is the first to ask him "What the fuck you all painted up for...?" (a theme that reoccurs throughout the gang's encounters with Eric.) After a brief struggle from Tin-Tin, Eric confronts him about the event, seeing flashes of his part in it while holding him then kills him with his own knives after the line "Victims, aren't we all?". Tin-Tin didn't recognise the retribution of the deaths of his victims and yet it was inescapable for him. 

The next encounter is with Gideon, a pawn shop owner whose establishment is frequented by members of the gang, particularly Tin-Tin. Eric breaks his way in only to be shot by the overly suspicious Gideon, this does little to halt his advance. The crow flies in to announce his presence and takes up a viewing platform, as it does in every act of vengeance. He persuades Gideon to tell him where he keeps pawned rings, as Tin-Tin sold Shelley's engagement ring after the murder. Eric searches through the lockbox of rings and finds the right one, shown by a hit of memory of his proposal and her delight. He douses the pawn shop in a flammable liquid, gets Gideon to confess the location of the gang's hideout, and the residence of another gang member: Funboy. Then comes the important line of this encounter (as there always is), while throwing discarded rings at Gideon: "Each one of these is a life, a life you helped destroy." Then Eric tips the remaining rings into the barrel of a shotgun he finds, he allows Gideon to run out of the back and then fires at the shop, blowing it up. Gideon was in on every death that the gang has caused by giving them reason to do so. He profited from the untimely death's of the victims and this came back to haunt him. A momentary meeting with Albrecht, the police officer, leads to Eric's vital line: "They're all dead, they just don't know it yet." This isn't so much a threat as an admission of his role in bringing the inevitable about. 

Next comes Funboy, who is shooting up with Darla. Once again his appearance is prefaced by the crow. Funboy shoots Eric multiple times but to no avail. Eric disarms him and shoots him back, then deposits his unconscious body in the bath. Darla has hidden in the bathroom and Eric confronts her. The key to this scene lies in this confrontation, not the one with Funboy because it introduces the idea of recovery. "Mother is the name for God on the lips and hearts of all children," he says to her calmly while grasping her from behind. While doing so, the morphine she was getting high on before seeps out of the track marks on her wrist and she runs off to find Sarah. Grange flees to save Funboy but finds him on the floor, syringes sticking out of his chest, as unsaveable as he always was. 

There are scenes between these. Exposition to continue the story with regards to the final confrontation. Albrecht, Sarah, Top Dollar, Myca (the mystic), Grange, they all have parts that, while relevant to the story, play no major part in the theme. Although the crow briefly visits Sarah, as though to show that the effect left by Eric and Shelleys' deaths is not only retributory but also about recovery of the state of the victims. 

The next member is T-bird, who is robbing a shop at the time with Skank, another, somewhat slow gangmember. Eric holds T-bird hostage in his own car and makes him drive to the docks, where he straps him to the seat and, noticing the explosives in the back of the car, sets off a grenade in the seat while pushing the car off the pier. T-bird dies in a ball of flames. T-bird doesn't show remorse, as such, but he is the first to show recognition. "I know you. I knew I knew you but you ain't you, you can't be you, we put you through the window. There ain't no coming back, this is the really real word, there ain't no coming back." That final repeated line isn't directed at Eric as a spirit of his former self but of terrified realisation of his own demise shortly to arrive and how what they did is unforgiveable and impossible to come back from. He also repeats a line from his earlier mocking: "Abashed the devil stood and he felt how awful goodness is." This is a line from John Milton's Paradise Lost and, in this context of the original, is brought on by an egotistic devil not being given the recognition he wants. A furthering of the theme of recognition, of how much they see their retaliation coming. 

The next is largely story-relevant but is still worth mentioning. The remaining gang members hold a meeting, which Eric attacks, killing all but Top Dollar, Grange and Myca. This includes Skank, who witnessed T-bird's death.

The gang members that killed Eric and Shelley are now dead but shortly after leaving Eric at the graves, Sarah is kidnapped by Grange, Top Dollar and Myca in the nearby church. Grange shoots and injures the crow (leading to a somehow beautifully comic 'impression' by Top Dollar that goes something like "Caw! Caw! Bang! Fuck I'm Dead!"), wresting Eric from his powers and allowing Top Dollar to shoot and wound him, who doesn't heal this time. "Well, well it does seem to me that your life has gone through a rather significant change in the last few minutes, wouldn't you agree?" It has indeed but not in the way Top Dollar thinks. Albrecht shows up, helps Eric and kills Grange. Or more rightly, helps the story move on with a minor Deus ex machina. This is American film-making making its entrance. It was inevitable really, as the film moves on, it must reach a dramatic climax so the theme must take a slight backseat to the drama and story. 

Myca, who has previously explained that the power of a person lies in their eyes, captures the wounded crow but it turns on her, pecking her eyes out and causing her to plummet down the bell tower. She is the only victim not directly culpable for the assault (or not as directly as the main gang members and gang leader) but she does try to manipulate the forces of death and karmic (or perhaps poetic) justice in her favour and the 'forces of death' (personified by the crow) don't look kindly on this. 

A final fight on the roof of the church and Top Dollar stabs Eric from behind with his a sword but Eric gives him something that, as he says, he doesn't want anymore. "30 hours of pain, all at once, just for you," referring to the 30 hours of pain that Shelley spent in hospital before she died. 

Good guy (Albrecht) quits smoking, says he wanted to come to church anyway, sticks two fingers up to his superior (he's a loose cannon all right), spills some other generic American bilge and the film ends with Eric succumbing at Shelley's grave, finally achieving peace, which is to say his memory and relative effects on the world achieves equilibrium as evidenced by the line "You helped me; what you kept in here saved me," tapping his head. I could omit that last analysis, the line could be taken as more bilge, it just seemed like a line that expands the theme well. 

The film ends proper with a flimsy comment about love. To which I say "Go away, you don't belong in this film." As Films go, this one is pretty much untouched by the ravages of Hollywood. It stands as a wonderfully in-depth exploration of the strength of moral pressure even on those marked as the most evil of people. 

This is the really real world, there ain't no coming back.

Blip *Signature Placeholder

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