CROW HAND!!! (2014)
Dir: Brian Lonano
Starring: Jason Vail, Caitlin McPhail
Runtime – 3 Minutes
UK release TBC
As a cheery, all-American couple (Jason Vail and Caitlin McPhail) leave a supermarket and return to their car laden down with shopping, the man notices a strange item on the floor. Upon closer inspection, he realises it is an intricately carved crow totem.
His wife tells him to ignore it and hurry to the car but his curiosity gets the better of him and he can’t help but scoop it up off the car park floor. However, there is more to this creepy keepsake than meets the eye and soon both of them find themselves regretting his hasty decision…
In the immortal words of Ron Burgundy: ‘Boy, that escalated quickly!’
Crow Hand!! is goofy, almost a pastiche of traditional horror films, with its ancient cursed artefact and shockingly extreme gore. You wouldn’t have thought that a film running at a mere 152 seconds (including credits!) could go from zero to ‘What the Hell did I just see????’, but Crow Hand!!! Does exactly that.
It’s a very fun film, one that feels a lot like a truncated segment from a splattery Eighties anthology such as Creepshow or Tales From The Darkside. It’s a simple story with a very linear plot line, has plenty of silly charm and, more importantly, builds to the most barking of climaxes.
The charm comes in the cheesy dialogue and wilfully bonkers reactions of Vail and McPhail (not to mention Vail’s awesome attire). They chew up their lines and spit them out with self-aware relish, whether they be deliberately downplaying their responses to some seriously messed-up events or embracing the craziness and going hilariously melodramatic. The script, by director Lonano, gives his leads plenty to work with, and the pair utterly run with it.
I’m already a big fan of Jason Vail (who has appeared in such genre flicks as Valley of the Sasquatch and Abraham Lincoln vs Zombies), and he is as awesome as ever, while McPhail matches him every step of the way. The pair have nice chemistry and bounce their delivery off one another wonderfully. They also show a real talent for the physical side of their comedy and throw themselves into their work admirably.
Lonano doesn’t just write well for his actors, he also shoots them brilliantly. With some great angles and zany camera work, Lonano infuses proceedings with a deranged dynamism, while cinematographer Josh Skierski ensures that the film looks fantastic. It might seem far-fetched to think that such a short film could have such a visual impact but Crow Hand!!! has tonnes of style that really help it to stand out from the crowd.
Of course, it’s not just the production values of the visuals that impress — no, along with Vail and McPhail, the third star of this film is the tremendous special effects work from Nik Morgan and production designer Blake Myers, along with Jeff Jenkins’ digital effects. I don’t think it’s too big of a spoiler to reveal that later on in this film there is a lot of gore, nor to say that most of it comes from a diabolical ‘crow hand’. However, I imagine plenty of you will be shocked and surprised to see just how splattery things get. Plus, the titular Crow Hand manages to be both laughably campy and genuinely unnerving — often at the same time!
The very game actors end up pretty much covered head-to-toe in fake blood (plus some surprisingly polished prosthetics) and as increasing extreme acts of wanton violence take place onscreen, you can’t help but grin despite yourself.
OK, it’s not the deepest of films — there’s only so much subtext you can layer into two minutes of screentime — and it’s silliness may put-off viewers after some serious, thought-provoking scares, but sometimes all you want from a film is to be entertained — and that is something that the folks at Robot Hand Films manage in spades with this delightfully deranged short. It’s an absolute riot and a film that I thoroughly recommend to all fans of blood and the bizarre.