Crazy Eights

Rating 3

Directed by James Koya Jones

Written by Dan Deluca and James Koya Jones

Additional writing by Ji-un Kwon and Patrick Moses

Starring Traci Lords, Dina Meyer, George Newbern, Gabrielle Anwar, Dan Deluca and Frank Whaley

Six people, the remaining members of a group of childhood friends who called themselves the “Crazy Eights”, are brought together at the funeral of another one of the eight. Their deceased friend has left a series of clues that leads them first to a shocking discovery and then to an old derelict and condemned building in an isolated rural location. Once inside, they find themselves trapped and in deadly danger as they re-discover hidden truths from their shared past.

Allegedly, ‘Crazy Eights’ was inspired by Virginia Woolf’s experimental 1931 novel ‘The Waves’. Any similarities between the two are tenuous at best.

Basically, it’s ‘The Big Chill’ meets ‘Beyond Bedlam’. The few reviews I have come across dismiss the film as an atrocious disaster, one of the worst horror films ever made. Dennis Harvey, reviewing the film for Variety, said, “Technically and otherwise, it’s beneath late-night cable standard.” I can only assume he has never watched the fare offered on HorrorZone.

One of the criticisms of ‘Crazy Eights’ is that it is so amateurish in every department that the experienced and well-known cast should surely have attempted to step in and help to remedy the situation before it was too late. Setting to one side the ludicrous nature of such a suggestion, this can only mean, as I see it, that those reviewers are not overly familiar with Dina Meyer’s other work. And I say this as a fan. ‘Crazy Eights’ is nowhere near as bad as the inexplicable ‘Unspeakable’ (never has a film been so appropriately titled) or as farcical as the admittedly strangely likeable ‘Decoys 2: Alien Seduction’.

It has also been suggested that ‘Crazy Eights’ has been severely butchered after the fact – presumably due to studio interference or in response to certification issues. This does not really hold up because the film was given an R rating, although I am not really sure why. I have seen plenty of PG13 horror films with more gore and containing ‘disturbing’ images of equal impact. I suspect the rating has more to do with the presence of the expletive “cunt” than with any scenes of violence.

The editing of various scenes does seem odd on first viewing; suggesting either abject incompetence (which I do not think is the case) or some retrospective meddling. The film appears to jump from one scene to the next, apparently with neither rhyme nor reason. This sometimes jerky editing is not entirely detrimental to the film. It adds to the sense that the individual characters might be slipping in and out of hallucinogenic states and are trapped in a kind of shared waking nightmare. I think this is deliberately intended. The film is very obviously influenced by J-horror films like ‘Ringu’ and ‘Ju-on: The Grudge’. Like those films, it shows us a lot less than it suggests, which is a style I prefer in general.

Having said this, despite brief exposition scenes at the start of the film that provide us with some clues about what is to come, instead of gelling as a group of friends, the six characters often act more as if they are strangers who have never met before. As the film progresses and hidden secrets and repressed memories are revealed there is not much attempt to explore the shared experiences of these people or what impact any of it has had on their lives.

This is clearly a very small budget independent film. As an example, Dan Deluca, as well as co-writing and producing the film and taking one of the lead roles, was also the second unit director.

My opinion towards it is undeniably biased because I like Dina Meyer very much and she has the lead role here (although Traci Lords gets top billing), but I rather enjoyed it, particularly on second viewing. For all of its faults, and there are plenty, it does create a genuine sense of creepiness.
Dennis Harvey comments that, “Most deaths take place offscreen, an unforgivable crime to most horror fans.” The very fact that the film suggests more than it shows, allowing the imagination to fill in the gaps, works very well for me.

‘Crazy Eights’ might be worth checking out if you like any of the leading actors or if you have a liking for J-horror. Otherwise, you would probably want to give it a miss.

No comments: