British film and television director Brian Clemens once commented that the problem with most British television was that it was all ugly people being sad. Something similar afflicts the purportedly supernatural drama Cravings, with the proviso that it is more spiritual and emotional than physical ugliness on display here.
Cravings, also listed as Daddy's Girl in the end credits, follows the travails and disintegrating life of Stephen (Richard Harrington), a psychiatrist whose wife has recently killed herself. She did the deed by slitting her wrists in the bath, and Stephen has to break down the door to the bathroom to reach her, much too late to do any good. Six weeks later, he is back at work and seeming has pulled himself together, though he is trying to sell his flat. His first patient is a young girl, Nina (Jaime Winstone) who appears to have attempted suicide by slitting her wrists, but who insists that she was merely cutting herself, and accidentally cut too deep.
Stephen quickly becomes emotionally invested in his young patient, and with her mother Liz (Louise Delamere). Perhaps too invested, as he soon begins a sexual relationship with the mother. This lapse of judgment, combined with Nina's increasingly bizarre and violent behavior (which includes drinking her own blood, that of dead animals, and of her friends) begins to have a deleterious effect on Stephen's mental state. It doesn't help that his dead wife's ghost seems to be trying to communicate with him by repeatedly turning the taps on when he is asleep or away from home. According to Stephen's one legged, psychic plumber (yes, you read that correctly) the ghost is trying to warn him of something. Just what is not clear to him, or how Stephen might be able to get a better idea, or how turning on taps is even supposed to effectively communicate anything to begin with. Which is unfortunate, because Stephen insists on making more and more bone headed and foolish decisions regarding his bloodthirsty patient and her mother. Honestly, how many hours of ethics training does it take to realize that letting a probably psychotic girl who drinks blood spend the night in your apartment, even if her mother (with whom you are having sex) knows about it and everything is innocent and above board?
Things rapidly deteriorate for Stephen. He is in danger of losing his job, Nina starts dressing up like his dead wife and following him around, her mother won't admit that there's anything really wrong with her, his dead wife just won't leave him alone, and then there's the incident with the blender. The super amazing surprise ending will not be revealed here, but it is no spoiler to say that things go poorly for several people.
Cravings has a number of bad points. Stephen, along with most of the rest of the characters, begins the movie with a frown and varies between studied indifference and anguished sobbing from that point on. There is virtually no humor, and the psychic plumber is the only character who seems to laugh with actual mirth. While this is a psychological drama and not a ribald comedy, unrelieved melancholy is rarely a winning formula for a film, and Cravings is no exception. Partly because of this, and partly because he is incalculably irresponsible and foolish in his decisions, Stephen is a much less than sympathetic protagonist. In fact, there is hardly any non-peripheral character that even approaches likeability. Nina is a sadistic, manipulative, blood drinking annoyance, her mother is needy and blind to her daughter's problems, and even the real estate agent is a jerk. The audience has no one to connect or identify with, with the result that it doesn't much matter what happens to anyone. The ending, which is clearly an attempt to be stupefyingly horrific, instead leaves the viewer thinking, "Well, they brought it on themselves. Did I remember to take out the garbage?" Hardly the empathic response the director was looking for.
This is not to suggest that nothing positive can be said about this film. The production values are very high. Sets and costumes are all quite naturalistic and top notch. The performances are also good. Harrington pulls off the tortured, unstable psychiatrist very convincingly, and Winstone and Delamere are also quite believable. This is not an amateur effort. But to what end are these energies being expended if it is impossible to emotionally connect with any of the fundamentally unlikeable characters? Ultimately, the fine cast and quality craftsmanship are wasted. The story drags on, feeling like much longer than its less than ninety minutes, as the characters perpetrate one stupid or unappealing act after another. The question that remains in the viewer's head as the credits roll is, "What ever happened with that ghost that was trying to warn Stephen?" But, after an hour and a half of this sad sack film, the energy to care never materializes. Skip this one.
The video is presented in 1.85:1 widescreen. It has a few minor issues, the image is grainy and the shadows can be somewhat overbearing during night scenes, but otherwise is crisp and bright. Colors are muted, but in this kind of film that is to be expected anyway.
The sound is 5.1 channel Dolby digital, and sounds pretty good, though not exceptionally so. Dialogue is consistently audible and clear. The score, though it is annoying at times, sounds very good, and never crowds out the dialogue. Subtitles are available in English and Spanish. No alternate language track is available.
The only extras available are trailers for Lionsgate releases Frayed, Necessary Evil, Dead Wood, and The Last Resort.
Cravings is not particularly interesting or thrilling or endearing or even entertaining. The characters range from mildly annoying to totally despicable and the story meanders through its ninety minutes hardly seeming to know where it's going or why. The packaging, which features a bloody mouth with sharp, vampire-like teeth, tries to suggest that this is some kind of supernatural horror film, but the only attempt to suggest any kind of otherworldly influence ends up being no more than a pointless plot cul-de-sac. The film's otherwise fine performances and craftsmanship are wasted on the pointless story being told. This one is not worth the effort.