The Crooked Man
While at a slumber party, twelve-year-old Olivia is blamed for the horrific and mysterious death of her friend after singing a song, created by a reclusive mastermind, Milo (White), which summons a demonic figure known as 'The Crooked Man'. Returning to her hometown six years later, a string of unusual deaths lead Olivia (Angelique Rivera) to believe that she's still being haunted by whatever she saw that fateful night. Once you sing the rhyme, everyone in the house is cursed to die by his hands.
October 10, 2016
Michael Jai White
I was reminded of my college days as I watched SyFy Channel’s upcoming horror release, The Crooked Man.
I was a big fish in a little pond back then (with the entitlement and attitude to match) – a theatre major at a university in the Midwest.
I took in a production of an infrequently produced musical at a school with a smaller theatre program – in a nearby town. I recall hating the production and I had an assignment for a theatre class; to write a paper/review of the play. I was a jerk, tearing apart the production (I’ve since been humbled many a time as I’ve aged) saying something along the lines of, “Well, what do you expect from *insert small town name here*” – basically believing that my shit didn’t stink. My professor called me out on this high-n-mighty comment, and it was a valuable lesson which I have often remembered and which I have since; always taken to heart. Basically, the lesson being that if a piece of art is effective, it’s effective. If it’s bad, it’s bad. Doesn’t matter where it comes from or how it’s produced. It’s all subjective – but demeaning the art’s origins because you didn’t like it – not cool.
I bring this up, because The Crooked Man was terrible. And as I was watching, that reconfigured sentence from above rushed past my glazing eyes – “Well, what do you expect from SyFy?”
Hmmm… perhaps I haven’t learned my lesson completely.
There has been talk of expanding the universe of The Conjuring, by giving The Crooked Man (the myth and character making an appearance in this year’s The Conjuring 2) his very own film. When James Wan and company had that discussion, I’m sure they weren’t referencing this sub-par production from these other filmmakers.
Five young girls at a slumber party – including little Olivia – conjure (see how I did that?) The Crooked Man, by reciting the nursery rhyme. As expected, he arrives – and havoc ensues. Flash forward six years, and after a long stay in a psychiatric hospital – an older and wiser Olivia (Angelique Rivera) returns to her hometown; only to be greeted by suspicion, hatred and anger. You see, everyone believes that the little girl killed on the night of that fateful slumber party – well, that Olivia was the murderer. Olivia must convince her surviving friends that The Crooked Man is back, and attempt to keep the legend from killing and continuing on.
Too many problems to delve too deeply, but here are the biggies.
There was no justification for any character actions. It all just seemed so convenient and ridiculous. The big one which immediately comes to mind – one of the characters (after having no experiences with The Crooked Man in the six years of Olivia’s absence – and providing no history of mental illness or depression) decides to end it all and turn off the lights, allowing The Crooked Man to come and kill her. Huh? Oh yeah, just as in this year’s hit, Lights Out, The Crooked Man can’t get you unless it’s dark.
There’s also no clear reason why Olivia is the object of The Crooked Man’s affections. We’re given some indication that she’s been dealing with this fear since the beginning, but that she’s the only one. With four remaining girls from the original terrible night, why Olivia? One possible reason is given, but it’s just not enough.
Other problems: Olivia connects with Noah (adorable former Power Ranger Cameron Jebo) the older brother of one of her childhood friends; and he is immediately set up as the love interest. There’s no build to this relationship. You know it’s coming, since everything about the film is so damn cookie-cutter, but that doesn’t mean you believe it. Their first “passionate kiss” resulted in an audible groan escaping my mouth.
And what in the world was the point of Milo (Spawn’s Michael Jai White)? Sure, he’s the character who put The Crooked Man on-line in the first place, but once he comes in to explain some exposition, he’s never called upon again to help battle The Crooked Man. It just felt odd.
There are also plenty of scenes which defy reality – even in the world the filmmakers are creating. One of Olivia’s friends – now a recluse by order of her “Margaret White” – style mother, has been boxed up in her home since the events six years ago, and the strictness of her mother is stifling – yet this girl has what appears to be a very current/updated cell phone. It doesn’t match up. And Olivia’s all access to the police station just boggles the mind. Finally, characters come in and out of the story with no fanfare (Olivia’s dad) and really offer nothing of importance in the story. Ugh.
The design of the character itself was nifty – especially in the way he moves. It’s a nice effect and frankly, the only thing I found enjoyable. That being said, The Crooked Man was a completely unoriginal amalgamation of Freddy Krueger (a bowler hat rather than a fedora), The Creeper from the Jeepers Creepers franchise and the title character from The Babadook. And believe me, these are not qualities you’ll have to squint to see. With his first appearance, all three of these horror icons will come to mind.
And sadly, the visual effects of the monster himself, were the only CGI components which worked. Everything else was laughably awful. More than once – some random, unexplained black cat showed up. My question would be, if the cat serves no purpose within the story, other than to provide a possible “boo” moment (it didn’t) – then why bring attention to the terrible CGI at your disposal – if the cat is wholly unnecessary? And as we reach the climax and inevitable showdown between Olivia and The Crooked Man – you’ll be shaking your head at the amount of “glue” showing in those landmark rocks/tree and the house of The Crooked Man. Terrible computer-generated exterior, but then the interior design and set dressing of the place – actually quite good. Go figure.
There was not one good performance to be found in this film. Not much else to add to that, other than you will care nothing about these people. It’s a sort of perfect storm – three terrible things (bad acting and atrocious story combined with laugh-out-loud bad dialogue) which come together to make a very painful screening experience – well, it’s almost legendary in its placement on the crap-o-meter (I’m copyrighting that phrase).
I can see that it’s possible to have your television set to SyFy and this happens to come on while you’re ironing or doing the dishes – and in that, you may find some fleeting glimpses of enjoyment. But if you’re sitting down to take in a good horror flick, and expecting to pay attention and follow along – you’re better off just continuing your chores.
Before you come crashing down on me for such bold over-generalizations, I know that there are exceptions to every rule. But I’m recalling things like Sharknado or Sharktopus or Frankenfish to make my case. Those films are meant to be goofy crap. We’re supposed to laugh and groan at the terrible effects. Bottom line here – we’re meant to take The Crooked Man seriously. But we can’t. We just can’t.
I’ll leave you with this final thought, as you have now read my words on this subject. Take my advice or don’t. But remember these easy and helpful words — if indeed you choose to watch; and end up with my same verdict on The Crooked Man, “Well, what did you expect from SyFy?”
The Crooked Man is scheduled to premiere on SyFy on Monday, October 10th. Check your local listings… on second thought, don’t.