Until earlier this week, it had been nigh on fifteen years since I had seen Alex Proyas’s take on James O’Barr’s The Crow. When it first came out in 1994, I was at the height of my goth days, and I thought it was the coolest film I’d seen in years. I lost count how many times I watched it between 1994 and 1995, read and re-read the comic, and even based a non-player character I had in an active Vampire: The Masquerade campaign on Eric Draven (played in the film by Brandon Lee, who, tragically, was killed during its filming). And then there’s the soundtrack: a number 1 album on Billboard’s 200 in late May of 1994, the soundtrack is a snapshot of early-to-mid 1990s alternative rock, with songs from Nine Inch Nails, Stone Temple Pilots (whose “Big Empty” was a huge single itself), Rage Against the Machine, Rollins Band, Pantera, The Jesus and Mary Chain, My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult, Violent Femmes, The Cure (whose “Burn” introduced legions of fans to The Cure, even though they’ve never performed the song live), etc.
Basically, the film was pop-goth-pr0n, and I sucked it all up. If you’ve ever read the original comic, this isn’t surprising; O’Barr’s clearly influenced by the music of The Cure, Joy Division, Iggy Pop, and Bauhaus – you can practically hear the soundtrack when flipping through its pages.
Anyhow, fast-forward almost twenty years. While I did drown myself in The Crow for a couple of years, I think I decided it was actually pretty silly (apart from the film’s soundtrack, which I still love), and I gave up on it for the best part of fifteen years. It was only by chance that I decided to hit “Play” on Netflix earlier this week and give it another watch.
Yeah, it’s silly; yeah, it’s trite; yeah, it’s a blown-up, ultra-violent music video (about thirty people are killed in the film, which is pretty astonishing when you consider the small size of the main cast); but it’s also bloody good fun. People are blown up, stabbed, shot, impaled, and eviscerated – all in the name of love. It’s not often you find something that looks so cool (and it does – Proyas did an excellent job of keeping to an extremely limited palette to better match O’Barr’s black-and-white original – the studio forced him to film in colour), sounds so cool, and warms your little black heart despite the lashings of blood and corpses. Like I said: pop-goth-pr0n.
Perhaps it’s just nostalgia that made me smile while watching it (“Oh, youth!”), but I think it’s more to do with me accepting silly things from my past. So what if something is silly? Is it entertaining? There you are then. (I mean, between bouts of Skinny Puppy and Nine Inch Nails, I listen to Rammstein and Die Antwoord, for crying out loud.) I think I might have taken The Crow a little too seriously in my late teens, and I think I got annoyed with myself for thinking it was really all that great. I grew up and got over it: sure, it’s not a masterpiece of modern cinema, but it is fun, and it still looks pretty damn cool after almost twenty years.