The Crow

(Alex Proyas, USA, 1994)


Although most of the initial publicity for The Crow played it cool concerning the central selling point of this extravaganza, the blurb on the back video cover is shameless: “The film that cost Brandon Lee his life!”

Not even the most feverishly creative theorist of popular culture could have invented such a spooky amalgam of art and life (and death): where in reality Lee was shot by a loaded gun and never recovered, in the film he is immortal and simply gets up off the floor whenever he is blasted, knifed or punched.

Over and above its intrinsically ghoulish aspect, The Crow has been underrated by most reviewers. If there is one familiar complaint worth banning from the lexicon of film criticism, it is surely this: ‘It’s just a feature length rock video!’ This lazy opinion has been wielded over too many important, innovative, groundbreaking films, from Prince’s Purple Rain (1984) and Serge Gainsbourg’s Charlotte For Ever (1986) to Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers (1994).

Australian director Alex Proyas (improving by leaps and bounds on his previous feature Spirits of the Air, Gremlins of the Clouds [1989]) indeed comes from the world of rock video. His pyrotechnical flair is here matched to a suitable narrative vehicle: a serial revenge story rather like the Friday the 13th splatter movies of the ’80s, in which the ghostly hero Eric (Lee) stalks, one by one, the street criminals who killed him and his lover.

The visual style and production design of The Crow are immensely satisfying. The film brings together a rich brew of references: the modern medievalism of Batman Returns (1992), the dystopian urban cityscapes of the Mad Max series and Blade Runner (1982), the surreal effects of Dario Argento‘s horror fantasies, and the disquieting animations of The Brothers Quay.

I am not surprised that it has found an appreciative, youthful audience, despite all the nasty and ungenerous things that reviewers have said about it.

MORE Proyas: Dark City, Garage Days, I, Robot

© Adrian Martin 1994

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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