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Review: 'The Crooked Man' falls short on many levels

Posted Tuesday, February 14, 2017 at 4:55 PM Central
Last updated Wednesday, February 15, 2017 at 8:45 AM Central

by John Couture

The use of urban legends and mythology is standard practice when it comes to horror film fodder. Whether it's co-opting an existing urban legend ala the Urban Legend movies, or creating their own for the Nightmare on Elm Street movies ("One, Two, Freddy's coming for you"), the blurring of lines between real horrific tales and tales of horror on the big screen is something that has been around for decades.

Unfortunately, it's also a tired trope that really needs a unique concept or perspective that really knocks your socks off. Things that go bump in the night movies were old hat, but The Blair Witch Project put a new spin on them. The Crooked Man is neither original, nor does it pack enough scares to give even the lightest of horror lightweights any reasons to jump.

I think the main problem lies in the fact that this film was made for cable TV, the SyFy network specifically, and as such, the film faces arbitrary restrictions. For one, the level of gore is greatly reduced, even on soft-core cable. There's a bit of violence, but you can tell that the filmmakers had to work around the restrictions placed upon them.

The Crooked Man starts out as a subpar "Movie of the Week" and it doesn't really elevate itself much over the following 86 minutes. Oh, how far Michael Jai White has fallen. I mean, he was Spawn and a total badass, but in this film you get the impression that he's going through the motions simply to get a paycheck.

The story is so played out that I can probably name a dozen films released in the last decade that presents a slightly different take on the whole boogey man did it trope. Heck, Rings is still in theaters and those films are so much better at the scary man film than The Crooked Man.

From my younger days, the "classic" film Candyman pretty much covers the entire new film beat for beat. And that film had at least two direct sequels. So yeah, there really isn't much to see here, except for a new take that is tame enough to show on basic cable.

You know what is scary? The true life horror story about the Slender Man killings. You know, those girls in Wisconsin who nearly killed their friend and then blamed the Slender Man? For a fleeting moment, I was excited because I thought that was where The Crooked Man was going to go, but nope, it veered back into familiar territory.

I didn't need The Crooked Man to show up in the film at all. Had this film been about a girl who killed her friend and then came back to town and snapped and went on a serial spree, that would have been more terrifying. Instead, we get another lackluster horror film that doesn't even scare anyone.