Director: Alex Proyas
Premise: On the night before Halloween, musician Eric Draven (Brandon Lee) and his fiancé Shelly are planning for their wedding when they are brutally murdered by a gang. A year later, Draven is resurrected by the Crow, a supernatural force that seeks out restless souls and gives them a chance to find peace. In face paint and leather, Draven uses his supernatural abilities to hunt down those responsible for his tragedy.
The Crow is a film both born and resulting in the tragedy of loss. The comic book of the same name was created by James O’Barr as a way to deal with the loss of his fiancé who was killed by a drunk driver. Striking a chord with readers, The Crow was adapted into a film and released in 1994. Over the past 20 years The Crow has become more of a cult film than the kind of revolutionary, genre-defining film it was initially claimed to be. Some critics named it the heir-apparent to Tim Burton’s Batman. While The Crow’s soundtrack is far more appropriate for the film than Prince’s Batman one, the Burton film proved to be more influential to the genre in the long-run. A series of terrible sequels (starring everyone from Kirsten Dunst to David Boreanaz to Edward Furlong) and its grungy and at times overwrought theatricality have undoubtedly diminished its stature. While it’s been overshadowed by the boom of later comic book adaptations, The Crow still remains a personal favorite that is a true product of its time.
The Crow is a fairly standard revenge story comprised of Draven taking out his enemies in increasingly entertaining ways. The film’s over-the-top violence is somewhat softened by a certain level of poetry in its themes. The subplots involving a cop seeking to close Draven’s case and girl who was close to Shelly and Draven add a human element to an otherwise dreary film, though not particularly original in their execution . Where the film really shines is in the wonderfully memorable performance by Brandon Lee. Part of the film’s popularity stems from the tragic death of Lee, who was accidentally shot on set while filming Draven’s death scene. Lee was set to be married a week after filming concluded. It’s an incident that has sad and eerie parallels to the film and O’Barr’s own history. But Lee’s performance, full of menace and charm, has left an undeniable mark.
Stylistically the film feels like a music video, furthered by the use of popular 90s rock songs (“Burn” by The Cure is seriously tops; go ahead and give it a listen while you finish reading this). The film’s fight choreography also has a certain musical quality to it that makes Draven’s quest seem far grander than it is. The final fight scene, a sword fight between Draven and Top Dollar on the roof of a church in the rain, remains one of the most epic climaxes of the 90s. While the film has a certain narrative roughness, it’s easy to see why The Crow’s visual sensibilities and message on loss has endured.
And now, a Halloween PSA, courtesy of Audiences Everywhere: The growing popularity of Hot Topic and specialty shops led to an increase in Crow costumes. The story-concept – that the Crow can be anyone who has experienced loss – allowed for versatile and easy designs (stick a black feather on whatever you’re wearing and you’ve just become the Crow). The early 2000s saw a sudden unfortunate surge in Crows, which still hasn’t completely fallen away. Sure there are people who think they look good in a Crow costume (“you’re so edgy,” said no one) but there are plenty of Google images to prove them wrong. The beauty of the film is trivialized by an overuse of its imagery. No one wants to be that person sweating the night away in leather clad-awkwardness, white paint ruining their host’s furniture, and constantly being mistaken for the wrestler Sting. So please, think before you Crow this Halloween. Watch the movie, preserve its identity, and avoid the costume.