I’m a sucker for films that begin with a child cowering under the sheets as some terrifying creature of the night crawls out from the closet or from under the bed. I got an unexpected double dose of that this weekend because I coincidentally watched both They and The Crooked Man. But do these two films deliver the same situation as Darkness Falls – amazing intro scene involving a child followed by run-of-the-mill monster movie featuring adults?
The director of the 1986 classic The Hitcher returns to scare us again almost two decades later, so, well…he’s kind of rusty. Interestingly, it’s hard not to look at this one as a Darkness Falls rip-off. Hell, just as Anya from Buffy was in that one, Riley from Buffy is in this one! However, Darkness Falls would have to wear the copycat title, because They came out a year before it!
“Just let me get Buffy! She’ll know what to do!”
They has a great intro scene – scared kid in room at night hides under blanket is terrorized by some sort of monster.
Years later, a young woman (Laura Regan of Dead Silence, My Little Eye and How To Be a Serial Killer) reconnects with her childhood friend…the kid from the beginning. He’s now a mess, convinced night creatures are still after him, requiring him to stay in the light at all times. Since the young woman is a psychology student and also experience night terrors, she begins to research the possibility that these creatures are real, and that they drag young children to another dimension.
What actually drags is this movie. Basically a bunch of people that had night terrors as children just sit around moping about how it ruined their lives…until they get stuck in a dark situation and are killed. All the atmosphere feels forced and manufactured, there are too many cheap scares, and all we really see of the creatures are CGI flashes of their spidery forms.
What not to do when you hear a strange sound in a vent after learning all your friends who also had night terrors as children are dying mysteriously.
Eventually, the main girl does her best to stay in the light, which isn’t easy to do since these creatures can apparently just fuck with electricity whenever they want to make it dark for their convenience. On the bright side, the ending is depressingly fatalistic.
CROOKED MAN (2016)
Another horror veteran, the director of YellowBrickRoad, brings us a slightly more thrilling creature of the dark with The Crooked Man. Although it’s a SyFy original for October 2016, it’s a pretty fun flick to get you in the Halloween spirit.
This opener kicks ass. During a sleepover, young girls take on an Internet challenge of singing a song rumored to kill you. Thunder and lighting set the scene as…Crooked Man rise from the darkness! He’s pretty much a combo of Slender Man and The Babadook if you ask me, with the jerky CGI movement so popular in supernatural horror films these days. In other words, he delivers some good, cheesy chills.
Six years later, one of the girls from that deadly sleepover is now an adult…and everyone believes she got away with murder after what happened that night. As she tries to convince anyone who will listen that it was the work of a monster, she has a run in with a Buffy alum! I’m not even kidding. Tara makes a disappointingly brief appearance in the film. Anyway, the main girl figures out that Crooked Man can only get you if you’re in the dark. No one will listen so everyone from the sleepover begins dying.
While an old music box is a cool link between the cyber song urban legend and the past, the downside of The Crooked Man is the addition of a tribal curse backstory and a ridiculous moment when the main girl and the cute guy she hooks up with (gotta have a romance) enter a house from her dreams that suddenly materializes in a fantasy field. Ugh. But at least the inside of the house is creepy, and that’s where the final confrontation with Crooked Man takes place.
Crooked Man himself is a much better presence than the creatures from They, and this film goes for a simple, slasher-like structure that delivers some cool kills and gore—another reminder of just how lame They is.