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Crowbar: The Killings Of Wendell Graves (2010)
Director: Scott M. Phillips

review by Jim Steel

This low-budget creeper starts off with a low-key piano soundtrack and some classy New England photography that suggests Carpenter with a dash of Lynch. A young ten-year-old boy is picked up from a party and dropped off at his house. He goes inside and discovers his parents being murdered by a masked manic with a crowbar. The quality of the film then plunges towards risibility. A crowbar may be plausible as a weapon for a maniac, but is that a welding mask that the guy is wearing?

Seriously..? You can just about make out the sun on a clear day through one of them, but they're not very practical when chasing young boys through the neighbourhood at night. And the acting - all of the acting in this film - can be ranked somewhere along the scale from weak to wooden. Dave Poland as the sleazy estate agent is the only possible exception but since his character is so manic it is difficult to tell for sure.

We then jump ten years to the present day and a young married couple, Veronica (Natasha Timpani) and Alex (Michael Ray Clark), who have just bought the house. They meet some of the creepy locals. One, who seems to be trying to warn them, will unfortunately remind British audiences of Uncle Albert from Only Fools And Horses. He's driven off by the woman from across the road who seems friendly enough but cannot entice her silent husband to come across and meet the new neighbours.

While Alex's out at work, Veronica entertains a couple of old friends who commiserate with her about the distance she has had to move. Crowbar reappears and slaughters the two friends, the police arrive and don't seem too bothered before they leave again with the bodies, Alex arrives home, the neighbours no longer want to talk to them, and the couple have no choice but to spend the night in their own home which, as Alex points out, should have been sealed off as a crime scene. They cannot drive anywhere as their car seems to have instantly aged; corroded points, flattened tyres.

On the following day our couple, bickering and stressed, set off to try and find some answers. Gradually the film starts to build in interest again as it becomes apparent that it is something much more than a mere slasher film. There is nothing in the local paper about the killings and they can't find the policeman. They do find the over-stuffed local library and managed to get some information online before the computers go down; all the relevant books seem to have had their pages torn out. It also becomes apparent that all of the locals have a corpse-like pallor.

Suddenly we are faced with the prospect of a variation on Carnival Of Souls which was itself a low-budget effort with a largely amateur cast. Carnival Of Souls is one of the finest ghost stories ever made, and while Crowbar never quite rises to the same heights, it does succeed in becoming both entertaining and creepy. And it is also slightly barking, which is never a bad thing. Much of the camerawork and editing is ambitious even if the pacing sometimes drags but it becomes apparent that this is a deliberate, if not entirely successful, attempt on the part of the director to inject a dreamlike pace into the film.

If you let it get over the opening bumps and jolts and allow it time to breathe then you will find an intriguing little film. It's not the most original film ever made but it makes for a welcome variation on the slasher genre and it isn't too heavy on the gore. It certainly won't waste your time.


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