“Buildings burn, people die. But real love is forever”– The Crow, 1994
There’s a movie that takes a very special place in my heart – it resides on a high place in my list of favourites, something that very few movies are able to achieve: The Crow, 1994.
I don’t watch this movie only when it’s Halloween – I know many call it horror, fantasy or even action, but I call it, deep down, a love story.
After all, it was the romance of Eric Draven that made him come back from the dead to avenge his own death and the horrors against his fiancee, Shelly Webster, one day prior to their wedding.
I can’t put in words how much this movie means to me and how I adore it with a passion. But I can take you in a voyage to a city run by crime, in which a guitar player is brutally murdered and comes back with his black and white makeup to finally have some justice.
After a terrible movie on our Dark Side of the Moon special – which you can access here and take a look at our selection of trash movies for Halloween – I bring something worthy to the Bright Side of the Moon. Therefore, you can hop on my train wagon with me, but be careful when disembarking: the streets have no mercy and some things should be solved with your own hands.
(WARNING: this post contains sensitive subjects that may serve as a trigger, such as depression, rape and graphic violence)
The Crow: Its Origins in Comics
In 1989, James O’Barr created the iconic character of The Crow – in a comic series published by Caliber Comics – considered a super hero story, but aimed towards a more adult public.
It’s worth to mention: there are many kinds of comics “aimed towards a more adult public”, once they talk about heavier themes and oftenly with disturbing images – as an example, we have the famous Sandman by Neil Gaiman.
O’Barr created the story as a way to cope with his girlfriend’s death in real life because of a drunk driver. He brought us Eric and Shelly, the main couple on the comic, who suffer an attack of a gang when their car break on their way home. Eric gets shot in the head and ends up paralyzed while watches, unable to do anything, the gang beating up, raping and shooting Shelly in the head.
Left to die by the side of the road, Eric dies in the hospital while Shelly is considered DOA. A year later, a crow brings Eric back from the dead, in order to have his revenge against those who commited such horrific acts against him and Shelly. This crow is also a “spirit guide”, guidin Eric on his revenge and even “chastising” him when he can’t let go of Shelly’s memories and drowns even deeper in solitude and depression.
The Crow: The 1994 Movie
Before being the movie it is today, James O’Barr said that, when in contact for the first time with the executives who wanted to produce The Crow, the original idea was for it to be a musical starred by Michael Jackson. The author of the comics thought it was a joke, but soon realized the executives actually meant it.
I adore Michael Jackson. But I’m relieved this crazy project didn’t go forward.
Therefore, in 1994, Alex Proyas directed The Crow’s comic adaptation to the movies. As the main character, we have Brandon Lee – Bruce Lee’s son. What probablt made the movie more known back then was the accidental death of Brandon Lee during the filming because of defective fake ammo in one of the scenes in which the actor was shot.
I remember until today asking my parents, when I was very little, about shots in movie’s special effects and they told me Brandon Lee’s story – although they had never watched the movie. I’ve always been a little scared to watch it because of that, but when I saw the movie for the first time, I ended up falling for it.
In the credits, the movie is dedicated to Brandon Lee and his wife, Eliza.
The movie plot follows Eric Draven and Shelly Webster – as in the comics. In Detroit, on October 30th – date known as Devil’s Night, when criminals commit many crimes, specially burning buildings – a gang, led by T-Bird, invade their apartment, shooting Eric and making him watch while they rape and torture Shelly, finally throwing him out the window.
The beat cop Albrecht is called to the crime scene while Shelly is taken to the hospital, barely surviving such violence. Sarah, a little girl who was almost like Shelly’s younger sister, appears at the scene and the last thing the woman asks Albrecht is for him to tell Eric to take care of Sarah. The girl is left alone with the cop, both knowing Shelly won’t survive.
A year later, the horrible crimes committed against Eric and Shelly went unpunished. With that injustice, a crow brings Eric back to life so justice can be done by the musician’s hands. Painting his face in the iconic way seen in the movie, Eric begins his saga to get his revenge against the criminals.
I don’t believe that The Crow is a horror movie, but it definitely isn’t a light movie. Eric is taken by anger, sorrow, depression and rampant desire for revenge, without being able to let go of his memories of Shelly. This unmeasurable suffering of the main character is what makes him come back to life and seek his revenge – or, in my point of view, justice.
Throughout the movie, we have scenes with drug consumption – cocaine and morphine mainly, in a graphical manner – various deaths of the most diverse variety, sex innuendos and a city devastated by crime that makes Batman’s Gotham City look like an amusement park.
Amid it all, though, there are still some rays of hope and happiness: Eric finds Sarah again – whose mother has a relationship with Funboy, one of the responsible for Shelly’s death, and spends most of her time getting high with him. Once the girl is one of the very few good memories that remain on Eric, he does everything in his power to protect her and help her have a better life – something that he and Shelly already did when living and now, after death, Eric tries his best to keep on with it.
“Mother is the name for God on the lips and hearts of all children. Do you understand? Morphine is bad for you. Your daughter is out there on the streets waiting for you.”– Eric Draven, The Crow
As a counterpoint, Eric doesn’t spare his acts on the murders of T-Bird’s gang members. All deaths are extremely symbolical and quite painful even: morphine injections right on the heart and car explosions with the victim strapped to the stirring wheel are just a taste of what Eric can do to get his revenge.
“He was already dead. He died a year ago, the moment he touched her. They’re all dead. They just don’t know it yet.”– Eric Draven, The Crow
And all that ends up getting him envolved with the machinations of Top Dollar – one of the crime bosses in town, who used T-Bird’s gang as soldiers.
On the artistic point of view, the movie is really amazing: in search for proximity to the comics, the main colours are black and white, sometimes with emphasis on blue and red. The lack of colour and the certainly gothic and grunge settings, makes us remember the Batman movies when directed by Tim Burton – but it gets its own identity by releasing blasting colours and grasping a more violent and cruel reality.
One of the interesting production points is that Brandon Lee didn’t like the way his facial painting looked when the makeup team applied it on his face. Therefore, he and the director agreed that Brandon would do his own makeup every night before going to sleep in order to make it look more natural on the next day.
The soundtrack also doesn’t let us down: the orchestrated segments are very well utilized and the movie counted with famous bands of that time such as Nine Inch Nails, Stone Temple Pilots, The Cure – among many others. That contributes absurdly to the movie atmosphere making the spectators understand not only through images all the feelins and tones on the scenes.
In my opinion, the horror of The Crow isn’t in the obvious. You can find the real life horror along the movie, such as the violent murders of Eric and Shelly at the eve of their wedding in such a gratuitous manner; on the unbearable emptiness of having the people we love suddenly taken away from us; on the revolt against an injustice that destroyed many lives go unpunished; on the way people live life as if it’s eternal; on how a childhood can be forced to live in an adult way because of negligence of those who should care for her; on how life is ephemeral.
“It’s funny. Little things used to mean so much to Shelly. I used to think they were kind of trivial… Blieve me, nothing is trivial.”– Eric Draven, O Corvo
Brandon Lee’s acting shines as a star in the middle of the dark skies at night. In my opinion, there won’t be anyone who will be able to give life to Eric Draven the way he did. His charisma he gave to the character, makes us connect with Eric immediately, rooting for him, even with the horrific deaths he gives those who committed such horrible crimes against him and the woman whom his heart belongs to.
Another point I must talk about – although the whole cast present great performances – is the work of Rochelle Davis as Sarah. On the movie industry, there’s a “saying” that working with children and animals is one of the most difficult things – precisely because you don’t always have control over them or their acting isn’t the best. In this case, Rochelle brings a solid and sober acting, that doesn’t seem forced nor ridiculous. The girl, although young, manages to convince us that she really lives by her own on the streets of Detroit.
They are both responsible for one of my favourite scenes on the movie: when Sarah is almost run over by a car while skating on the streets and Eric saves her on the last minutes, both talk briefely – it’s also in this momment she asks if he was a “clown or something like that”, in a reference to the way the girl called him on the comics – and, commenting as how she’d like it to stop raining, Eric answers with “it can’t rain all the time”, making her remember him.
This is one of the most known movie phrases – once it clearly doesn’t refer only to the rain, but also means that bad moments in life doesn’t last forever.
At the end of the day, The Crow is a movie that talks about pain, violence, profound sadness and revenge, but, even so, it has a deeper message of love and hope that makes our hearts ache by the end – and even some unwanted tears stream down our faces while we see a beautiful love story being told in such a dark and melancholic way.
It’s been a while Hollywood wants to remake/reboot The Crow series – specially after so many recent movies based on comics.
The problem is that all production attempts, up until now, end up frustrated. For many reasons, actors and directors give up on the movie, the production stops and it doesn’t move forward, remaining only on paper.
As I said before, I personally don’t believe there’s someone who can top the incredible work by Brandon Lee on his acting of this character and Alex Proyas’ on the direction.
The Crow is already self sufficient as a movie. It doesn’t need a reboot or a remake, but people to remember this marvellous work that was left to us and learn with the message of seizing life and the time we have with those we love.
Unsurpassable, The Crow deserves its spot on the Bright Side of the Moon.
Bright Side of the Moon on Lune Station
As a debut of this new column, you can also check the posts by Hekate and Selene – I’ll leave the links below!