How “The Crow” Changed My Life [Fantasia Festival 2019]

This year, Fantasia International Film Festival is screening a nice collection of vintage titles and anniversary screenings. One of these is The Crow coming up on the 30th of July at 7pm and it’s one screening I hate to miss.

The Crow turned 25 this year and it has been just about as long since it became my favorite film, hence why this is one of the hardest films for me to write about. There is no being objective, this film is entwined in my teen years and my adulthood. It’s one of those films that had such a big impact, it’s almost impossible to separate the emotional from the reality of the film. So, as it’s playing, I wanted to write a deeply personal piece, a piece that it nowhere near objective, a piece that is about my history with The Crow.

The Crow came out in 1994 as everyone knows. I was thirteen, we had just moved from St-Nowhere-in-the-Middle-of-Fuck-This to Montreal. I was making new friends and learning new things. Our English teacher brought up the film soon after the trailer came out and it got my attention, not because of Brandon Lee’s death but because of the visuals and audio it offered. That trailer had me hooked, but there was no chance in hell I could see a film rated 16+ in a province where everyone needs to be actually 16 to get in. I was 13 and there was no way I could sneak in. So I bid my time, watched everything I could about the film, read everything I could about it. I prepared for that movie like no one else. There was a mystery about it, something that pulled me to it. Then it happened, I went over to a friend’s house and it was the rental of the night. It had just come out and there was no way my mom would let me rent something rated 16+ for violence, so I saw it at my friend’s place (sorry mom!), it was love at first sight, and I didn’t tell a soul for a while.

It took me a while to fully digest it. To get every bit of it around my brain and wrap my mind around it, I had found myself in a way. I was a dark heart kid with no real people like me around me, it felt lonely and this film felt right, it made me feel like I belonged (2 years later, The Craft made me feel like I had found my tribe even more). I was a darkness loving, tomboy 13 year old girl who had read every single book she could get her hands on, including some King, Barker, and other horror greats. I was in a place where the mood of the film just wrapped up around me like a warm blanket. What I didn’t know at the time, or didn’t understand, was that I felt like an outsider, like I was trivial. My little 13 year old dark self was dealing with being different and what very well could have been depression and anxiety as best she could. An interest in the dark arts of all forms and a curiosity about film led to seeing this particular film as many times as I could thanks to my dad buying it for me for my birthday (or was it Christmas?). The film felt like home, my creativity was fed; I was in a good place watching it and listening to the soundtrack.

There was everything my 13 year old heart could want: A great story, revenge for the underdogs, a tomboy who I could connect with, a charming lead, sword fighting, a cute cat, a killer soundtrack, and something else, a connection of sorts that I felt immediately but that I could not quite pinpoint at the time. Being older now, yep 38, I see a lot more into the film and I understand some of the connection. The film’s story of underdogs and revenge and love is a classically developed one, the violence spoke to my action loving heart, and music was something I listened to a ton, but nothing quite like what was in the film. I discovered new musical loves and got to see something that was bigger than me basically swallow me. It’s something that is hard to process as a young teenager and even now. I have been reviewing films since 2001 and have never really written about The Crow because it feels like I’m just rambling when I do. The film had a huge impact on my life and it helped me through watching it, reading, and listening to the soundtrack. I got through high school being an A+ nerd but with a dark side making me an outcast in the school as a whole and in the AP classes as a Goth in becoming. It was a weird time, I felt alone, but the film and its music were like a warm blanket.

I have studied the film, the soundtrack, and the graphic novel for many term papers and presentations in class. Talking about something I was passionate about helped me get over being too shy to speak in public and helped me bang out term papers in no time. The Crow is much more than what meets the eye and studying it showed me that and gave me an even bigger respect for it and its components. The Crow was so much more than a film; it was something that helped me get through a lot. Watching the film and listening to the soundtrack always helps. It helped me through my first breakup, through countless school papers, and through feeling the slump of depression kicking my ass. It’s like comfort food for my dark heart and when things get too dark even for me, it’s a nice place to go and feel like home.

As a film, it’s one that after possibly hundreds of watches and so many more movies having been watched since, still hits hard. When I can watch it in the dark with the sound at top volume, it’s still a great experience even though some scenes still bring up emotions. That is what tells me it’s still a great film and always has been a great film. The emotions it brings up, that scene where Eric looks for Shelly’s ring at Gideon’s or the one where he’s gotten back to his grave are still tear-jerkers. The plight of Sarah feels even more real. The emotional impact is what made the film become a timeless classic, it’s look and sound help carry the emotions, and the performances are just so great, it’s hard to not get pulled into it even as it ages. The film’s use of minimal CGI is something that helps it age well and Brandon Lee giving his all works to make it even more powerful.

The Crow is a classic and the fact that a remake can’t seem to get off the ground (thank goodness) shows that the original is something that can’t be duplicated. The sequels of uneven quality with something here and there being good or interesting, along with the ill-fated attempt at a TV series about the same lead character, show that the success of The Crow is something that could not and cannot be duplicated.  The film has an enduring appeal that goes beyond being a curiosity item. The Crow is Brandon Lee’s legacy as an actor and a creator and what a hell of a film to leave as one’s creative legacy.

Fantasia International Film Festival runs from July 11th to August 1st 2019.