Would I have been watching this movie with different mindset if since the beginning I knew that one of the executive producers was Francis Ford Coppola? Probably yes,since before watching it, I assumed that the film was a low budget horror. But actually, other factors, apart from the involvement of Coppola changed my attitude.
The movie was filmed in the good old tradition of horror masterpieces of the '80s: a gradual entry into the history and build up of horror elements, full disclosure of the monster only at the end of the movie and not quite a happy ending for the main characters (or at least one of them) . Although released in 2001, the film is carrying the mood of 80s monster classics like Pumpkinhead, Predator and Nightmares on Elm Street.
Cinematographically the movie attracts even the more discerning viewers already in the beginning. It is clear that the filmmaker didn’t make savings on lighting – all the scenes with the main protagonists are shot with a slight halo effect, according to the tenets of classical Hollywood "beautyfication" of the main characters, and even without too much “Barbie and Ken”, the brother and sister, who are the main characters, gain viewers sympathy from the outset.
The protagonists’ characters are given enough time to become sympathetic enough to the viewer that at the end of the movie one is emotionally involved to such an extent so to fear for their fate. As with other movies of the genre, the barriers set by the script to prevent a sex scene between the protagonists (whether because of a sibling relationship that makes this unacceptable, or because of the direction of the story) rather help unleash the story, rather than hinder.
Ravens are an interesting pattern. In the first scene in which they appear, they seem rather random, but at the end of the film are becoming a pattern that contributes to strengthening the status of the monster as a typical urban legend.
The monster itself has definitely compiled the highlights from other creatures before him – humanoid form and cloths, great physical strength, close to invulnerability, the ability for a rapid travel and physical regeneration, the tracking of victims at long distances, the running on vertical surfaces and finally the flying, thanks to the dragon / vampire wings which fold close to its body – it is impossible for the formula not to work properly.
The story that explains the existence of the monster is also an interesting and innovative one – awakening at specified intervals, regeneration after consuming of certain organs or body parts of victims, strange tendency to conserve them and use their bodies as decoration for walls and ceilings of its den and no less strange connection with popular retro pop hit, called "Jeepers Creepers".Throughout the first 50 minutes it is difficult to determine whether the film is not a slasher, driven by the image of a psychopath and only in the last third of the movie it becomes clear that it is a monster movie, which further contributes to and reinforces the surprising outcome and non-happy end, violating the genre conventions in similar scenarios in other similar movies.With the exception of the first 10 minutes the film is developed entirely at night or in darkened rooms, which also contributes to the complete atmosphere – enough scenes with silhouettes, backlight, fog, mist and classic Louisiana bog trees, with moss hanging from the branches.At 2 occasions the cinematographer’s decision for POV (point of view) is one, pointing through a hole in the body of a victim, which also works successfully as a motive and gives distinctive cinematographic technique.The clichés of the genre are used appropriate and measured –
- an abandoned church
- car chase involving a monster (including attempts of overrunning it)
- psychic, who foretells / knows the end of the movie
- attack on a police station with inadequate police officers who fail in any way to protect the protagonists
- creepy abandoned house, full of cats
- A scarecrow
- aforementioned Louisiana trees with hanging moss loops
- a long coat and hat dressed villain
- illogical, bordering on mental retardation, risky behavior on the part of the protagonists when entering abandoned buildings, in which it is clear that at least hang out serial killer
In conclusion – a movie with professional camera work and perfect lighting, an interesting plot, cleverly following mandatory clichés, but with slight bends and innovation, where appropriate, with a surprising twist from slasher to monster movie, non happy end and established producer as a bonus. This isn’t a movie, which will keep you long awake after you have watched it, but definitely leaves a pleasant feeling of nostalgia for a good horror movie from the 80s.