Cult film of the week: The Crow

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(C) Miramax Films

With its tragic love story, life after death, bloodthirsty battle between good and evil and vengeful Halloween night, The Crow is the epitome of cult classics. It is also the perfect film to help you capture the Halloween spirit without actually being very scared. Be warned, however, that what The Crow lacks in jump scares it makes up for with blood, guts and gore. As you might expect, there is a ghost in this film. Relying on the mythic role of the crow as a convoy between the land of the living and the dead, Eric Draven is brought back to earth on the night before Halloween. It has been one year since he was murdered and his fiancée brutally raped and left for dead. Draven has been granted invincibility and a short return to Earth in order to hunt down and enact his revenge upon the gang of men responsible for the attack. Their leader runs a city that doubles as a desolate wasteland; it rains constantly, and crime and debauchery are rampant.

(C) Miramax Films
Eric Draven back from the dead (C) Miramax Films

Like so many cult classics, the film’s morals are ambivalent to say the least. There are a considerable number of religious references, including quotes from Paradise Lost. Despite the fact that Draven is attacking rapists and murderers, his violence is gruesome and innovative enough for him to be considered at least a little bit deranged himself. For example, Eric stabs all of the villain Tin Tin’s key organs. He decides which ones to stab based on the alphabetical order of their names. Eric’s allies, Sarah (a young girl) and Albrecht (a police officer), seem equally unaffected by his revelrous displays of violence. They do, however, ground the film in the world of the living and raise the stakes of Eric’s mission by reminding us that the city and its inhabitants have much to gain from the elimination of their worst miscreants.

(C) Miramax Films
(C) Miramax Films

The film becomes bloodier and bloodier before climaxing in a rooftop church battle where Eric’s invincibility suddenly evades him. The fight between good and evil is never more symbolically obvious or undetermined. Whether defeated or triumphant, Eric must say his final goodbyes before returning to the afterlife to join his love. His fiancée Shelly is never really seen except in distorted flashbacks, and this is perhaps my only criticism of the film. Making Eric the avenger and giving him the ability to channel Shelly’s pain rather than letting Shelly process her own emotions or seek revenge repeats the trope of transferring females’ pain and experience onto the males around them. This results in an exploration of how the male, rather than the female who actually experienced the trauma, is affected.

Despite all of the blood, guts and gore, the ending of The Crow is more heartfelt than horrific. Sarah’s final line (“If the people we love are stolen from us, the way to have them live on is to never stop loving them”) may be a little cheesy, but it is also quite beautiful. And Eric’s promise that it “can’t rain all the time” rings true. The city finally has hope for a more peaceful, less rainy future – at least until the next avenger is resurrected.

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