The Crooked Man is a fun, teenage monster movie–a fun thrill ride from start to finish, in all the most literal sense. As the film opens, we are introduced to a gaggle of young women trying to have fun at a sleepover. However, when one of them decides to tempt fate by singing the song that kills you (or the rhyme of The Crooked Man) things quickly turn sour.
One of the girls ends up horrifically wounded and her death is blamed on another, Olivia, who is then sent away to pay for the Man’s devious crime. We are then reintroduced to an older Olivia (played by Angelique Rivera, American Crime, Drink Slay Love) who has returned from her time away and wants to resettle in her hometown. However, as her other friends from that fateful night start to be murdered, Olivia must find a way to fight The Crooked Man and put an end to it all.
First of all, The Crooked Man is worthy of praise for having a coherent story from start to finish, regardless of not being perhaps the most creative movie you’re ever likely to see. Regardless, there is a strict logical consistency, great performances, a noticeable attention to detail, and, on the whole, it manages to be a satisfying movie experience.
This is director Jesse Holland’s fourth credit and it shows that he not only knows how to make a movie, but also how to enrapture attention with his creativity instead of demanding it with too many confusing subplots. There are few worse things than a horror movie with too many elements, because they tend to leave the viewer frustrated with no definite ending or even a finite grasp of what the hell just happened. The Crooked Man is, thankfully, not one of those films.
The movie also boasts a terrific mix of practical and CGI FX, for example the monster himself is a person playing the role, but he is enhanced by CGI to give him an otherworldly feel. This combination serves The Crooked Man well by making a creepy monster and a believable paranormal one simultaneously. There is a particularly memorable death scene in the film that is pretty striking because it uses practical effects where other movies may chose not to. This realistic touch further adds a delicious layer of the unexpected.
However, there are certain points in The Crooked Man where CGI is used for silly things such as steam from a pipe or a lit window. Those out of place touches seem like they were trying to go for a more perfect visual than a practical effect could have given them, but honestly they just look a bit silly.
Speaking of details, there are several that I appreciated throughout The Crooked Man. For instance, there is a police officer character who interacts with the female lead in order to help her solve the murders. He bears the uniform of the town in which they reside and it actually looks like a real police officer’s uniform.
I know that may sound nitpicky, but I cannot tell you how many times I have seen either a law enforcement or military uniform that is so wrong it is distracting from the rest of the film. I get it, budgets can be tight, but sometimes these uniforms are so cheesy they look as if the character is going to start dancing for Dollar bills. This is just one of the many small details throughout the film that show the audience how much care went into making The Crooked Man.
As for the monster himself, his character design, as well as the noises associated with him, are fantastic choices that help this vision of The Crooked Man stand out amongst all the other by-the-numbers horror movie ghouls. The choice CGI, coupled with his movements, give him an interdimensional feel that is just another great choice in creating this monster. Although some parts can be cheesy, he is genuinely scary and the scenes he is in are often quite terrifying.
Unfortunately, he’s not a completely original monster. The Crooked Man is an old, cute nursery rhyme that you can find in Mother Goose collections. With all the attention to detail and smart choices that were made in this film, I do not see why an original monster would have been out of reach for this team. Maybe The Crooked Man holds significance to the writer or director, but I think an original creature would have really set this film apart from other teen scream monster flicks.
Overall, this is a pretty fun film that is quite akin to riding a roller coaster. When you get in line for a ride, you know exactly what you are signing yourself up for. This is similar in that you aren’t going to be overly surprised or shocked by the story, but you enjoy the ride nonetheless.
Catch The Crooked Man when it releases on DVD Valentine’s Day, February 14th, 2017
WICKED RATING: 6/10
Director(s): Jessee Holland
Writer(s): Jeffrey Schenck, Peter Sullivan
Stars: Angelique Rivera, Cameron Jebo, Michael Jai White
Studio/ Production Co: Hybrid
Release date: February 14th, 2017
Length: 86 min