We Need To Talk About…The Crow Remake

Welcome to ‘We Need To Talk About’ A regular feature that will explore current burning topics in the world of horror that really need to be explored and discussed. Let’s get to it ; We need to talk about the Crow Remake…

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Brandon Lee. An actor, a martial artist, the heir of a legend, a fiancé, a brother and son. His tragic and needless death on the set of The Crow will always haunt the 1994 adaptation of James O’ Barr viscerally beautiful graphic novel. The film was completed after his death using B roll and stand ins, a landmark for film making. The film marketed itself ; the heartbreaking parallel between the character of Eric Draven being murdered just before his wedding and Brandon losing his life just weeks before his own wedding to Eliza Hutton (the film is dedicated To Brandon and Eliza, seemingly acknowledging that not only was Brandon lost but so too was his future), the knowledge that in one (now destroyed) take of Eric Draven’s death scene Brandon Lee actually lost his life, all these tragic elements came together to create a deeply chilling film experience.    What was once a small violent ‘comic book’ movie with Bruce Lee’s son in it which was struggling with distribution and financing, became, following Lee’s death the most talked about film of the decade and so took it’s place in infamy. Alex Proyas’s film deserves more than infamy though, it crackles with the knife edged lunacy of a man with nothing to lose, giving visuals to the nineties that can be seen to have inspired a generation of devoted ‘Goth’s’. Lee’s performance is mesmerizing and powerful. The film itself holds a power even greater than the tragedy it caused. 

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Several years ago the emotionally charged legacy of this beloved film and it’s devoted fans were rocked to the core when it was announced that The Crow was to be remade. The news was met with horror, outrage and sadness. Horror remakes had become a merciless pandemic, nothing was sacred – not even Nightmare On Elm Street. I joined the chorus of indignation, expressing my disgust and fear that the performance that Brandon Lee died to bring to the screen would be replaced and forgotten, that Hollywood would rehash and white wash an iconic piece of film making. As the rumors and predictions rolled in (Mark WahlBerg!!!?) myself and other devoted fans of the film shook our heads in shame, did we truly have to endure this awful injustice? Quietly we seethed and waited for the tacky ‘action movie’ trailer to hit, for the new Eric Draven to step forward, I felt sick at the thought of it all.   

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And then something happened ; James O’ Barr stepped out of the shadows, figuratively clutching his deeply personal achingly moving original graphic novel in his hands. He conducted interviews along with confirmed director Javier Gutierrez and it was revealed that he was going to be playing a very important role in bringing his story back to the screen. He made it clear that Brandon Lee had been a friend of his (O’Barr regularly visited the original set) and the last thing that he wanted was to betray him or nullify his performance. Then he and Gutierrez both stated that this film would NOT be a remake of the iconic 1994 film but instead another interpretation of O’Barr’s graphic novel. It was also confirmed that relative newcomer Luke Evans (The Three Musketeers) would play Eric Draven. A concept poster was then revealed for the film ; which was a new colored sketch created by O’Barr of his legendary character Eric Draven.

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  I was stunned, utterly thrown and I didn’t know how I a devoted fan of the original film should feel and then I went back to the source. I re-read James O’ Barr’s original graphic novel. I was again stunned by it’s power, it’s beauty and suddenly I realised with complete clarity that it deserved to be brought to the screen again. O’Barr created the graphic novel following the tragic death of his beloved girlfriend who was killed in a hit and run by a drink driver. His immediate response to his loss, became The Crow – the story of one man seeking revenge for the loss of his greatest love. The novel itself is a haunting, tragically moving and passionate love story and an ode to the agony of grief. The Crow in it’s conceptuality is not just a possession of Brandon Lee’s though it will always be his greatest legacy it is also a product of James O’ Barr’s creativity and expression of his deep loss.

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  Having experienced the graphic novel I began to really think objectively about the 1994 film, yes it is a wonderful film and will always be but truthfully it never really had the chance  to do justice to an amazing piece of literary art. Its tiny budget could never quite allow for it’s scale, it had been plagued by other on set accidents, the lack of money was in part blamed for the tragic death of Lee, with budget constraints meaning that an inexperienced prop master with no gun training was left in charge of the film’s firearms. And though taboo and difficult to talk about sensitively, the matter of Brandon Lee passing away before the film’s completion will always be an issue for the film. Though Lee was very close to wrapping his part with almost all his action scenes filmed, it had been planned in the last week of shooting to film back to back pick ups of Eric and Shelly, exploring and expressing the passionate love between the two character’s which is the beating heart of the graphic novel. Sadly Lee’s death prevented the shooting of these scenes and so the final film sees evocative but brief, hazy glimpses of the pair’s love. A new adaptation would have the chance to truly bring the emotional resonance of Eric and Shelly’s love to the screen. And so it is with a confused and still somewhat weighted heart that I welcome in this forthcoming adaption with trepidation but also with interest and a newfound respect.

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    Thoughts? Feelings? Please share!          

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