It’s safe to say that in an age of social media, economic unrest and rampant consumerism, it’s a surprise that deranged loner films are uncommon. Sure, there’s elements of this archetype in most action films (going closer in line to the anti-establishment cowboy characterization rather than quiet psychopath) as well as in serial killer films, although many times in the latter, the narrative turns the loner into an unabashed villain rather than misunderstood misanthrope. But overall, the deranged loner subgenre has found itself at a crossroad, unable to tread back onto the days of Travis Bickle and The Bad Lieutenant, yet no visible road ahead of it that would remain true to the character study elements that defines it. Leave it to the independent genre world to step up to the plate with a spectacular deranged loner thriller that came seemingly out of nowhere, Charles de Lauzirika’s Crave.
Crave follows a twisted crime scene photographer, whose warped sense of right and wrong begin launching him into a melded world of revenge hallucinations and real-life dangers. However, what immediately strikes the audience about this film is how absolutely unbiased everything is within the narrative: there’s no self-righteousness in the photographer’s actions and thoughts, and yet he’s not bad or evil in any traditionally understood sense. This is not a Death Wish ripoff or some fantastical trip into vengeance porn, but rather a deduction of a man’s soul through his own eyes and needs, which is surprisingly emotional and absolutely gripping.
de Lauzirika provides an incredibly confident and captivating debut feature film, keeping the story front and center even when the focus of the film begins swaying between reality and imagination. The script, co-written by de Lauzirika and Robert Lawton, is one of the strongest I’ve seen all year, keeping character voices consistent and believable while also building a layered narrative that all leads to a satisfying if ambiguous conclusion. William Eubank’s cinematography is stunning, making every shot of a saturated cityscape feel more and more deserving as the chaos piles up. Furthermore, Justin Caine Burnett’s score is memorable, giving a bombastic and eerie backdrop to the excellent sound design.
However, the film owes much to it’s stunning cast, most of whom work wonders within the films nearly 2-hour running time. Josh Lawson is marvelous as the photographer, Aiden, acting as a human with all of his flaws and providing one of the best (and restrained) demented performances of the year. Emma Lung does some fantastic work here, adding many curveballs to the expectations of a romantic lead in this kind of film which makes her all the more human and relatable. The film also has the benefit of featuring two excellent performances from Ron Perlman as a world-weary cop, whose dialogue and bruised ego give him easily the most sympathetic role in the movie, and Edward Furlong as Aiden’s romantic rival, who provides an engrossing natural charisma to his smaller yet multifaceted role.
Overall, Crave delivers in a big, bad way and offers one of the most clever genrebenders in recent memory. It hits moments of drama, comedy and horror all when they need to be, and the performances on display are riveting and never off-putting. In some ways, it’s a feelgood movie about a psychological meltdown with violent repercussions that are never celebrated, but rather examined. Crave turns the vigilante thought process on its head, and is definitely worth spending some time with,