About 6 months ago we received a comment on YouTube about our short film entitled “The Crooked Man”. The comment said “That was horrible”. So in return we commented “Please feel free to destroy this short film! Why is it horrible?”. We love getting feed back from people whether it’s good or bad.
So 4 months go by and nothing, no comment, which is usually what most people do. They write a simple negative thing without any reason behind the comment. Then about a month ago the YouTuber wrote back explaining in great detail why “The Crooked Man” is a horrible horror film. We were so impressed with this write up we decided to share it with you. I must say this person lost a lot of time writing this comment as we did making the short film.
Everything we create whether good, bad or in between we learn from it and keep going. We have never not finished any film we have started, no matter how bad it is and we truly believe that because of this we have grown as filmmakers.
BELOW IS THE EPIC COMMENT PROVIDED BY YOUTUBER: LEONARD TIBERIUS SPOKE
Saw this comment just now, better late than never I suppose. Anyways, if I had to sum up this film’s problem in one word, it would be “amateurish”. Yes, I’m aware that you likely didn’t have much of a budget to make this with, but that’s the wonderful thing about the horror genre – it provides filmmakers with a cheap avenue to display their talents, especially in terms of delivering suspense on a purely visual scale, as horror is a genre largely built on the strength of what we see on screen rather than what we hear. That being said, I’ll go into what I heard before I go into what I saw.
I’m of the opinion that acting is the second most important facet of a film’s success (directing and scene composition being the first, but again, more on that later), but The Crooked Man’s acting serves only to make a stilted and awkward script even worse. I would be very surprised if the two main male actors have ever done any stage work or any acting work at all, for that matter, prior to their performances in The Crooked Man. Whenever one of them speaks it is quite clear that they have just finished memorizing their lines and have no particular interest in their characters. They are simply reciting lines from memory, without any injection of emotion, other than the occasional twinge of discontent with either the other male character or the situation the group has found itself in. At certain points it seems as if these two have a tenuous grasp on the concept of acting. However, when they attempt to speak in a way that conveys that they are, in fact, acting, they are no better than 7th grade theater students. The two female characters are only marginally better. Though the acting is easy to make fun of, it is difficult to blame the actors for this train wreck. While I do believe that quality actors can liven up an unfortunate script, this only applies if the script is in some way salvageable. If the script to What Dreams May Come was salvageable, this film’s script is a twenty ton anchor at the bottom of the Marianas Trench.
I can forgive poor scripts in horror movies as long as they don’t detract too much from the experience. Since, as I’ve already stated, horror is a largely visual medium, a good script as an appreciated bonus (see Session 9 for an example of a low budget horror film with excellent writing). However, the script in the Crooked Man is simply unforgivable. It’s redundant, it’s boring when it should be exciting, funny when it should be scary, the progression of events makes very little sense outside of a very basic storytelling structure – it’s a mess. Since it’s likely that you’ll want examples of how this script was poor, I’ll provide you with a few of them.
Ex. 1 – Male Friend 1: And it just so happens that our quiet little town has its own spooky history.
Real people do not talk like this. Teenagers do not use the term spooky unless it is in an ironic fashion. This line belongs in a parody of a horror film.
Ex. 2 – Uncle Pat: He lives deep in the woods. In an old shack. Although it…never stays in the same place. (dramatic pause) It moves.
This is a stupid line to begin with, there’s no need to explain to the audience that the house moves after you’ve said that it never stays in the same place. What kills me though, is the pause, as if the fact that the house moves is supposed to be some kind of massive revelation even though the audience has already been told that the house moves, literally one line before.
Ex. 3 The entire flashback scene with the “creepy girl” and the rest of the girls at the party. In fact, the whole “the girl sent the Crooked Man after Danny” plotline. Yes, one of the biggest tenants of horror is “the less you know, the more frightening it is”. And true, we don’t know very much about this “creepy girl”. But this character’s entire purpose in the story is to give the audience a reason that Danny has disappeared beyond “he was in the woods and the Crooked Man snatched him up because that’s what monsters do”, and that reason is…a weird looking teenaged girl managed to harness a supernatural force (which according to Uncle Pat “comes from darkness” and “can’t be hurt”) in order to kidnap/kill Sam’s brother because…reasons. There is a distinct difference between lack of explanation to throw off the viewer and lack of explanation due to incompetent filmmaking. Astonishingly, this flashback scene manages to both answer too many questions and raise unneeded ones.
Ex. 4 Sam: Do not take your eyes off of me, alright?
Cora: We won’t. Careful.
(Male Friend 1 immediately falls over, prompting Cora and Male Friend 2 to IMMEDIATELY TAKE THEIR EYES OFF OF SAM, CAUSING HER TO GET KIDNAPPED)
Do I really have to explain why this is bad writing? Either your characters are dumb and unlikable, or you couldn’t come up with a legitimately interesting way to get Sam away from the group. I’ll guess both.
If you need more examples of bad acting or writing I’d be glad to provide them, but now it’s time to move on to the most important aspect of the film that has gone wrong, as I’ve annoyingly pointed out several times before – the visuals. No, I’m not talking about poor special effects (though poor usage of special effects can certainly be discussed – see the Trident-Pitchfork-Harpoon throw and the filter placed over the afterlife to indicate that this is in fact the afterlife. Or a pocket dimension. Or the Crooked Man’s domain. Whatever, it really doesn’t matter all that much), I’m talking about the direction. One thing that really irks me, unless it’s in a found footage film, is the use of a handheld camera to film scenes of characters just standing around. If you need to use them to film running scenes, fine, but for non-action? If you’re going to make a movie, at least put some money into buying a tripod, a Steadicam mount, or both. Keeping the camera steady keeps the audience’s attention on the characters and what is occurring on screen. Perhaps this is why the camera was not kept steady here.
One of the primary rules of cinema is “show don’t tell”. Many aspiring directors would do well to take this rule into account, as could Mr. Galvin. Much of this movie is explanation of past or present events, often in the form of scantily clad girls talking in positions where the audience can clearly see their legs. Once the action (a term I use lightly in regards to this film) gets going, one would expect things to start getting scary. However, after the Crooked Man snatches Sam, the film retains its low level of quality from the first 12 or so minutes. The camera is often placed at odd angles in an attempt to provide the audience with a “scary” atmosphere. This is bizarre at best and overdoing it at worst. A shack in the woods at night is a scary location – it’s a shame that nothing interesting was done with it. The film has no clear aesthetic or style, other than the muted colour palette that is becoming more and more popular in subpar movies these days (Man of Steel). It’s almost as if Mr. Galvin thought he could make a movie frightening by having his “characters” simply be in some kind of danger and twisting the camera a few degrees to the left or right. Unfortunately, that is not how horror works. Horror is about fear of the unknown, about humanity’s insignificance in the universe, about our inability to control forces far beyond our understanding. Dracula is Victorian England’s repressed sexuality, Frankenstein is our fear of progress, Michael Myers is our fear that even our closest friends could be monsters, werewolves are our fear that WE could be monsters. These icons of the genre endure because the mean something to human beings beyond a cheap scare. This is a boring film about boring characters doing boring things in a boring world, portrayed in a hideously boring way, with no underlying meaning to any of the proceedings. It is highly unlikely that The Crooked Man will be remembered at all. If society does happen to be so unlucky, the only thing The Crooked Man will represent is humanity’s unfortunate inclination towards low-grade horror in recent years.