The Crow, as you most likely know, was about a young man whose wife was raped and murdered by a gang of vicious thugs. Through the power of avian magic, the man came back from the dead and reaped some serious vengeance all over the place. The Crow was a dark, brooding, atmospheric, and fairly intense little anti-superhero movie, and it's a flick that's earned its fair share of hardcore fans. (Two really terrible sequels would soon follow, as would a TV series that I've never seen and must therefore also be terrible.)
And since The Crow, once the creation of graphic novelist James O'Barr, is now a product of Miramax / Dimension Films, it only stands to reason that the trashy stream of direct-to-video sequels will forever continue, undeterred by sundry things like quality filmmaking, passable craftsmanship, or brief glimmers of creativity. (This is a studio that unleashes torrents of Hellraiser and Prophecy sequels with no mercy, so it only seems logical that we'll eventually see 4 or 5 more Crow droppings before the well dries up.)
But the one we're here to focus on today is The Crow Wicked: Prayer, fourth in a "series" that also includes The Crow: City of Angels and The Crow: Salvation. (I'd pay $1,000 to see the next one called The Crow: Tupperware Party.) Wicked Prayer opens with a scene that sets a perfect foundation for the whole of the film. In other words: it's hilariously stupid. We're introduced to a quartet of astonishingly evil bastards, sweaty guys with names like Pestilence, War, Famine, and Death. (I guess Boils called out sick.) These guys are ruthless murderers / rapists / Satan worshippers / bad dressers who, I'm pretty sure, really hate the local Native American population. The Native folk, for their part, are trying to close down a local toxic waste plant (or something), but they're forced to contend with racial intolerance, cultural differences, and the aforementioned Satan worshipping murder gang.
You'll never get a clearer indication of the sort of movie you're messing with as the four head villains are introduced. Director Lance Mungia (and I use the word "director" with some charity) chooses to freeze-frame on each villain, while giving his audience a text printout of each villain's vital stats. The movie actually stops so you can read stuff like Name: Pestilence / Occupation: Toxic Waste Removal / Diagnosis: Terminal / Offered: Apologies / Mission: Revenge. This was great. Less than ten minutes into the movie and already I was rubbing my hands together and chuckling deliciously as I anticipated the next bout of unbelievable lunacy.
And then Tara Reid showed up. Folks ... let me tell you something: Nothing in the known universe will make a bad movie even worse than the simple presence of Ms. Tara Reid. And the statistics simply do not lie: Urban Legend, My Boss's Daughter, Just Visiting, Body Shots, Alone in the Dark. I mean ... we haven't seen professional consistency like this since Michael Jordan retired. Basically, Tara Reid has never met a line reading she couldn't mangle into submission. Nothing against the gal personally, but Tara Reid is to acting what Popeye is to grammar.
But it just doesn't end. Simply put: The Crow: Wicked Prayer is a touchstone of humiliation for every actor involved. David Boreanaz, generally so likeably wooden on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, is unleashed with an overwrought mania that, frankly, borders on insanity. Mr. Boreanaz plays Luc, head baddie, mega-evil devil worshipper, and guy who frequently tongue-kisses Tara Reid. It's pretty clear that Dave was going for a "waaaaay over the top" burlesque of a bad-guy performance, but if the actor was shooting for a 12 on the camp-0-meter, well, let's just say the meter hit triple digits in record time.
And then there's Edward Furlong, that stringy kid who played John Connor in Terminator 2. Now, I bet you think I'm going to tear into Ed here, but actually ... I like the guy. He's done some damn fine work, especially in movies like Pecker and American History X, but there's just no way around the simple truth: Asking Edward Furlong to play a scary, tragic, undead vigilante is like asking Richard Simmons to play George Clooney. Since most of the movie deals with Furlong as the Crow-type ass-kicker, you can of course expect to giggle non-stop as Wicked Prayer churns on. Frankly, Furlong in full-on Crow make-up / wardrobe / attitude looks and sounds a whole lot like Pee Wee Herman combined with three huge hits off of a crack pipe. He's your girlfriend's creepy little gothy brother that you really try to be nice to, but you can't because he's just so annoying and weird.
So anyway, a movie needs a plot, right? Here's one: Luc wants to "become" Satan at the same time that a toxic waste plant (or something) is about to be closed down so that a Native American casino can be erected. Scattered across this sweaty and goofball landscape is a subplot about Jimmy Cuervo and his gorgeous girlfriend Lily. The lovers are killed by the devil guys, and back pops Jimmy, by now entirely crow-ified and looking to kick some satanic butthole. (One should note that Tara Reid, as Lola "Byrne," is clearly meant to be the brains behind the organization of the devil cult, which is all you need to know about the impending success of said cult.)
The rest of the movie consists of War, Famine, Pestilence, and Death (and Lola!) as they wander the town and do terrible things to weeping people. Eventually skinny Crowguy shows up in a Joan Jett wig and challenges one (and only one) villain to a fight. The fight will consist of stuntpeople being thrown across the room, sometimes in slo-mo, sometimes high-speed, only to be met by something made of wood or styrofoam, resulting in a series of sound effects that would be more at home in a Bugs Bunny cartoon. More often than not, Crowstick will emerge the victor, while the remaining devilists move on to commit further deeds of unpleasantry. Rinse, lather, repeat.
And for all that's so painfully and evidently wrong with The Crow: Wicked Prayer, I not only recommend that you rent the thing and laugh your cranium sore; I also think you should buy it and keep it hidden until the next time your friends come over and break out some form of marijuana. It's been a long time since I've seen a movie this aggressively and consistently stupid, and I'd be lying if I said it wasn't quite a bit of fun. I'm totally sincere when I say that The Crow: Wicked Prayer is funnier than Meet the Fockers and Bringing Down the House combined. Hell, this movie's funnier than most good comedies.
Oh, I can't believe I forgot to mention that this movie contains what is arguably the campiest and most outrageously silly performance of Dennis Hopper's career. And just think about that. Dennis Hopper is who I'm talking about. He pops up in a cameo appearance as a satanic priest guy (called El Nino) who says things like "Now what's it gonna be, homey, you wanna be Satan or what?" (That's not to say that the woefully bad dialogue is kept exclusively to Mr. Hopper. If you can make it through Boreanaz's third-act monologuing without bursting into laughter, I suspect you may be a robot or cyborg of some sort.) Ah, and Macy Gray plays Dennis Hopper's girlfriend / satanic priestess. Now how many movies can make that claim?
Video: The widescreen (1.85:1) anamorphic transfer, actually, really quite strong. It's pretty clear to see that, at one point, Wicked Prayer was intended for a full-bore theatrical release. Yeah, and somebody once thought New Coke was a great idea.
Audio: The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track is perfectly fine and dandy, and trust me: this is dialogue you'll want to hear.
This should be fun.
Get a load of the two audio commentaries, one with director Lance Mungia and producer Jeff Most, and the other with Mungia, cinematographer Kurt Brabbee, editor Dean Holland, and sound designer Steven Avila. And I'm asking you as a favor, because, let's be honest, life's way too short to spend listening to TWO audio commentaries for The Crow: Wicked Prayer. Even the meaningless life of a movie geek DVD critic. Mr. Most gets things started by informing us that not only was he the producer, but also the co-screenwriter, the music supervisor, and the second unit director. Mungia chuckles and says he was also the caterer and a bottle-washer. Already my temples are beginning to throb. And then not 58 seconds into the commentary, as the opening credit sequence plays, Mr. Most says "We're seeing these names pop up here..."
I fully admit that this is when I chose to employ the Chapter Skip button on my remote.
Chapter 2 - "The kids were not actually lit on fire."
Chapter 4 - "The family atmosphere on set and, obviously, what you see on film was really, um, a result of this story being about people who all knew each other."
Chapter 5 - "Lady Macbeth, there." (While referring to Tara Reid's character.)
Chapter 7 - "The only huge deal is, at the end of the day, you have something to watch."
Chapter 9 - "One of the things that really impressed me about him was, in his background, he had done community theater in Bakersfield."
Chapter 13 - After the director tries about six times to get a word in edge-wise, Mr. Most yields the floor and Mungia delivers this pearl: "Very easily, it could have just happened that you were in it for a paycheck, I was in it for a paycheck, we were just gonna crank something else out and cash in on the franchise..." and then trails off while explaining how that isn't what happened. I was laughing too hard to hear it all that clearly.
As far as the second commentary goes, well, feel free to give it a spin and submit your own mini-review of the track. I'll include it right here in this blank space:
Moving on to the other supplemental material:
Wings and a Prayer: The Making of The Crow: Wicked Prayer begins, and I find myself desperately hoping to see that the filmmakers are aware of the film's overwhelming silliness. And ... nope. All the interview segments were obviously done on the production set, which explains why everyone seems to be talking about the movie in their "serious voice." This combination of film clips, on-set footage, and cast/crew interviews runs for an outlandishly self-important 30 minutes, and ends with Mr. Boreanaz reminding us that yes, The Crow "lives inside all of us." (Sounds painful.)
El Pinto is a pointless little 2.5-minute clip of producer Jeff Most and several crew members as they talk about who came up with the "idea" to have "cars" in the movie. Weird.
Black Moth Bar Storyboards is exactly what it sounds like: A storyboard-to-movie comparison that you'll never watch, even though it only runs 4 minutes.
Margaritas and Conversation (with producer Jeff Most and director Lance Mungia) is a black-and-white stroke-fest in which the filmmakers drink alcohol, smoke cigars, and wax unceasingly pretentious about the movie they made. Guys, "fantastical" is not a word. The guys just ramble on for 180 back-patting seconds, clearly trying to convince the viewer (and each other) that they've made some sort of deep, thoughtful film worthy of lofty retrospection. Guys, c'mon, you shot an in-name-only direct-to-video cheapie sequel in 23 days, which Miramax then (wisely) kept on a shelf for three years. Give us a break.
Also included are two deleted scenes, and one must wonder what how bad a scene must be to get deleted from a flick this dire, but I digress: entitled "The Gathering Center" and "Rick E. Ravens," the two sequences are presented with non-optional director's commentary, in which Mr. Mungia explains why they were snipped, without explaining why the rest of the movie made the final cut.
Jamie's Attic is a 3-minute visit into the studio of composer Jamie Christopherson. Nice to see that professional harmonica players can still find a few paying gigs. The composer spends more time showing his a hidden bedroll than he does discussing the film's music, but Jamie's wife stops by to say how much she digs hubby's tunes.
Galleries consisting of production stills and something I can't be bothered to mess with entitled "Wicked Prayers: A Photographic Journey" are also included. And of course we have the standard explosion of trailers for Sin City, Hostage, Cursed, Dracula 3: Legacy, Hellraiser: Hellworld, and The Prophecy series.
The Crow: Wicked Prayer is just like the first one -- if the first one had been made by a room full of mean-spirited six-year-olds with a finger paint budget of $12.00. And the fact that the filmmakers take the thing so seriously only serves to make the movie funnier.
But hey, if a movie entertains you by accident, it's still entertaining you, right?