The Crooked Man
Story by Jeffrey Schenck and Peter Sullivan
Written by Peter Sullivan
Directed by Jesse Holland
[All images courtesy SyFy]
From a humble (and oh-so-creepy) nursery rhyme with a brief cameo in this summer’s The Conjuring 2, The Crooked Man lurches over to SyFy as the first feature of the channel’s “31 Days of Halloween”.
Thankfully, The Crooked Man is no Sharknado; despite a good helping of genre clichés it does a great job creating a sustained mood of dread mixed with a compelling story. Add in some interesting characters who display a baseline level of competence and intelligence and you have yourself an enjoyable start to the Halloween season. Check out the trailer below.
We first meet a group of 12-year-olds at a slumber party. Since pillow fights are totally Dullsville after Mom turns off the anonymous slasher movie, young Olive and her friends decide (of course) to check out the latest online version of Bloody Mary which here is called The Crooked Man. Against a cheesy-appropriate blood red and black background, Olivia recites the rhyme.
There was a crooked man and he walked a crooked mile.
He found a crooked sixpence upon a crooked stile.
He bought a crooked cat, which caught a crooked mouse,
And they all lived together in a little crooked house.
Youth is no excuse for these girls. They were just watching a horror movie – they should know that deliberately reciting a creepy nursery rhyme that’s supposed to mark you for death may have serious consequences. As is tradition, Bad Things ensue and everyone (even the poor pizza delivery guy) is forever marked on TCM’s list for a bad end.
Six years later killer rhyme reciter Olivia (Angelique Rivers) is released from the institution and greeted by her dad (Marco Rodriguez) and a stalker taking photos from across the street (Michael Jai White). Along with her childhood frenemies from the sleepover and a (maybe too) helpful cop (Cameron Jebo), Olivia must now face a boogeyman that she claims was summoned at that slumber party.
The Crooked Man is a solid, suspenseful movie. Blood and gore make appearances but are used sparingly. The score by Nick Soole builds around the Crooked Man rhyme throughout the movie. Major scares come from a built up sense of dread instead of cheap jump scares.
The Crooked Man himself (Dmitrious Bistrevsky) lumbers in the shadows with a unnerving, twitchy stop-motion type of effect. Like Jason, Michael Myers, or The Terminator, TCM is slow but relentless. Like Dracula, his power comes from the inability of anyone but his targeted victim to believe he exists.
Like It Follows or the Final Destination series, TCM creates a plausible reason why characters’ can’t simply up and move – they are targets of a doom that will follow them everywhere they go.
The Crooked Man gets SyFy’s Halloween schedule off to a good start. Hopefully the other 30 Days of Halloween match the first in offering a good mix of scares and story.
I also award Olivia and Noah the Nobel Prize for Using Common Sense in a Horror Movie for throwing the Sealed Evil in a Can back to hell with the Crooked House.