Episode 37. Drawn Together: The Crow (1994) and 30 Days of Night (2007)

The Crow
Hollywood is currently enamored with the comic book superheroes who have dominated the film landscape for the last several years. In this episode, Andrea and Alex go back to the earlier origins of graphic novel adaptations examining the cult followings earned by horror films based on beloved source materials (as selected by you, our listeners).

REQUIRED READING

The Crow. Dir Alex Proyas, 1994.
30 Days of Night. Dir David Slade, 2007.

EXTRA CREDIT

The Crow, written and illustrated by James O’Barr.

30 Days of Night – written by Steve Niles, illustrated by Ben Templesmith.

Super Heroes: A Modern Mythology. Richard Reynolds’ academic study traces the superhero’s trajectory in popular consciousness since the late 1930’s.

You Must Remember This: The Short Lives of Bruce and Brandon Lee – Karina Longworth’s excellent examination of the shadows casts by the influential father and son.

Rewatchability: The Batman Superman Movie – Alex was a guest on Rewatchability to discuss why or if two superheroes fighting matters.

The People’s History of Film – Check out the new podcast by our friends at Good Trash Media. Alex and Andrea were both guests on recent episodes discussing their love of all things film.

COURSE NOTES

 Intro song: Nail Ballet from Nightmare Picture Theatre, courtesy of James Zirco Fisher.
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10 thoughts on “Episode 37. Drawn Together: The Crow (1994) and 30 Days of Night (2007)

  1. Billy says:

    Nice hearing a good discussion on The Crow and thank you for another delightful episode!

    The Crow is a movie that I was completely enraptured with as an early teen, later “outgrew” and dismissed as a silly totem of 90s emo goth, and now years later has reverted back to enjoying. It’s a neat little film for young people and a stylish superhero/rock fantasy. Wearing all black and rocking an electric guitar on a grimy roof top seemed like the coolest thing I could imagine at 14.

    The Crow has some really great production design. Those black miniature models of Detroit are quite striking, and in my opinion it is a more visually appealing film than Burton’s Batman. (Which is the direct cinema ancestor of this picture.) Proyas also handles action and dynamic camera work much better, with some John Woo touches thrown into the gunfights.

    From my american friends I’ve been told that The Crow introduced a lot of people stateside to bands like The Cure and Jesus and Mary Chain. Graeme Revell’s score is also quite lovely and went on to work its way into a million trailers. (Like Pearl Harbor).

    Michael Wincott is a delicious villain with his great gnarly voice, and I think the colorful cast does a great job at being memorable and adding flair to what could have been a string of boring thugs. Ernie Hudson is always awesome.
    There’s an interesting sub-plot that they filmed which ended up on the cutting room floor. Throughout the film Eric Draven is haunted by a being called “The Skull Cowboy”, which is a grim reaper type of creature. This ominous ghost appears whenever Eric has socialized with a human since he is forbidden to walk among the living. It’s a cool concept that sadly didn’t make it in due to pacing issues if I remember correctly. Some of those shots are available to watch on youtube.

    As modern superhero films has become more generic and less interesting visually, movies like The Crow are starting to take on a more appealing sheen. Even though there were plenty of genre duds in the 90s (The Shadow, Phantom, etc), The Crow is one of the few films that works really well despite being Death Wish for goth teeny boppers. It’s a charming time capsule, got some sweet music and Brandon Lee’s hero still looks great, despite the attempts of many a Halloween douchebag over the years to spoil his street cred. 🙂

    Thanks again!

    • Alex West says:

      Yeah! The Skull Cowboy was a pretty big part of the graphic novel and added an interesting element to Eric’s internal monologue since he talked to a lot less people in his original incarnation. I didn’t wholly miss that character in this film but that would be a cool element to see realized if they ever do a remake/reboot.

    • Here’s where I need to admit to being one of those Halloween douche bags. I’ve worn that make up more than once.

  2. Joshua says:

    Hi Alex and Andrea. Once again, I really have enjoyed your commentary about The Crow. Upon watching the film, I was immediately drawn in by the production design. It is easy to see how Batman’s Gotham City and The Watchmen’s New York followed a similar dystopian aesthetic. The opening scene alone with the sporadic fires amid a darkened cityscape captured the feeling of despair and abandonment that is rarely replicated in current superhero movies.

    In addition, the music, the style and the slang of the characters not only identified it as a time period in the early 90s. For me, all those elements make a sort of timeless quality that probably would either be difficult or impossible to replicate in any reboot. The Crow was a child of its time and, in that way, all the better for it.

    As I watched the film after many years, I felt more how the tragedy of Brandon Lee’s death transformed the film also. That specter haunts each frame, enhancing the theme of loss and redemption.

    It makes me wish 30 Days of Night was a better movie because it didn’t seem you two had much to discuss beyond its flaws. As a listener who enjoys your insightful commentary, I much prefer a discussion on a film you both enjoyed.

    Looking forward to the next episode! In fact, I’m re-watching Alien as I write this comment. Next month can’t come soon enough!

  3. Oh man, The Crow…

    This movie came out when I was about 10 and I’ve loved it from the time I saw the first trailer right up to today. I’m going to really have to restrain myself from just slipping into Chris Farley-esque “remember when…that was awesome” descriptions of this movie.

    Instead, I’ll focus on one of the more unique aspects of The Crow, which is how it blends the gazes of the male and female revenge tale. Hopefully I’m not incorrectly attributing this line of thought, but I believe Kier La Janisse did an interview with the Rue Morgue podcast a few years ago where she discussed revenge movies, and she explained that revenge movies need a really awful event to serve as the catalyst in order for the audience to be on board with the protagonist. In movies where the protagonist is a man, that event is often the murder of his family. For women protagonists, however, we often get the rape-revenge tale.

    What’s interesting about The Crow, however is how it blends elements of both narratives. We focus primarily on Eric’s sense of loss through flashbacks to his time with Shelly. However, due to Eric’s supernatural abilities, the audience experiences Shelly’s trauma from her point of view through first-person flashbacks of the assault.

    This adds significant gravity to the movie, and also sets up what I think it one of the most satisfying resolutions to a revenge narrative, where Eric is able to make Top Dollar experience first hand every bit of anguish that Shelly went through. Perhaps the only way this could have been more appropriate would be if Shelly were able to inflict this pain herself, which makes me wonder…if that remake ever gets off the ground, maybe they should take a queue from a later iteration of the comic and make The Crow a woman?

    • love_rob says:

      That’s an interesting take on the blending of gazes and I see what you’re saying about the Shelly POV in the flashbacks. It feels very male-centric to me though. Shelly is in effect just an avatar for Eric’s loss. She doesn’t actually ‘do’ anything. If you stretch it, she’s the inciting factor for the plot of the movie (but not the comic afaik) but that’s it. While it pays lip service to her time spent in the hospital it seems it only matters in how that deepens Eric’s pain and makes his anger more righteous. He’s an embodiment of the patriarchal ‘protector’.

      • Andrea says:

        It’s true, and I thought of that. Eric was also murdered, although you could argue his suffering was more brief. Maybe the remake could have the crow reanimate Shelley to avenge Eric? I’d watch the hell out of that!

  4. Sam Costello says:

    Another terrific episode! Nice work, as always.

    Your comments about the source-comics seeming to get a little muddied in transition to the screen got me thinking. It’s hard to do more than speculate without actual insight into behind-the-scenes production decisions, but I wonder if the changing status of comic book movies and their source material is partly at issue.

    These days, studios stay relatively true to the source comics as a way to court hardcore fans and gain their word-of-mouth support online (I imagine the most recent Fantastic Four movie would have failed no matter what, but the fact that the people most attached to, and thus most vocal about, the comics hated its approach must have contributed somewhat to its failure). I think that wasn’t true at all in 1994 when The Crow was released and was probably still in doubt in 2007, for 30 Days of Night.

    The Crow was practically the first comics-to-movie adaptation that went into theaters (you had Batman in 1989, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in 1990, and The Mask also in 1994). It was a pretty cult book, far from the type of popularity that a mainstream superhero title would have. Given that the audience for the comic was relatively small and the loyalty-to-source-material doctrine hadn’t reified yet, it makes sense that changes would be made, even if they weren’t improvements.

    I find it interesting, too, that The Crow went from being impressionistic and sort of a free-floating sense of doom and menace in the comics to more like a superhero in the movie. Given the relatively low level of exposure many people had to non-superhero comics at that point, I suppose it’s not surprising that the producers of the movie fell back on superhero tropes as a way to understand what a comic book is.

    The changes are maybe a little less defensible/understandable in the case of 30 Days of Night, but it was a relatively minor comic, too. It was IDW’s first big hit and a pretty hot title for a few months, and it put the publisher on the map, but it didn’t sell hundreds of thousands of copies or anything. With the comic market being as small as it is, an indie comics hit means an audience a good deal smaller than even an indie horror movie hit.

    Looking forward to the Alien two-parter!

  5. love_rob says:

    The Crow came out when I was in High School but I didn’t watch it at the time. Watching it now I see it is definitely the most 1994 that a movie could possibly be. Stylistically it felt like a less refined mix of a Burton film, Robocop and the later Sin City. I found it to be a bit inconsistent and uneven, though I find that to be somewhat endearing. The unevenness could just be a side-effect of the troubled production history. I think if the production had more money we might have seen a much slicker and focused story, but then again, it might have lost some of its heart.

    I really appreciated the narrow scope of the story. That enhanced the feeling of nihilism and intimacy which are so important here. I could have done without the boardroom of crime (how exactly was burning the city turning them a profit). The Darla/Sarah story also seemed a bit distracting (it seemed to me that in the Darla confrontation scene Eric used some unexplained power to ‘pull’ the heroin from her and get her clean). The Skull Cowboy possibly could have made these more cohesive.

    I also liked the discussion of the history and styles of justice!

    I’m looking forward to the Alien/Aliens discussion! I have some unpopular opinions about Aliens and the characterization of Ellen RIpley that I’m glad I get to share at more people.

  6. Chris says:

    Great episode!The Crow was one of my favorite movies in my mopey teen years.The graphic novel is excellent too,though it is more focused on the cruel randomness of the universe.Thevillains have no real agenda,they just massacre Eric & Shelly for kicks.The notion that you could lose everything just because a bunch of assholes were bored really stuck with me. The movie’s plot is a more conventional revenge narrative, & I think the story changes were probably for the best.I don’t think mainstream audiences would have enjoyed it as much with the more nihilistic & minimalist storyline.
    On a weird side note,at the time the vhs came out I worked at a Subway.The people who owned the local franchise were hardcore Christian fundamentalists. The worst part of the job was listening to all their far right conspiracy theories & holier-than -thou attitude.One day my boss overheard a co-worker & myself talking about how much we loved the movie.She told us that it was Satanic & we were not allowed to discuss it at work.She threatened to fire us if we didn’t comply. She said Brandon Lee & his father both died to pay the Satanic pact they made for fame, & that they were burning in Hell even as we spoke. She said one of her son’s friends had snuck the movie into her house & watched it,& as a result an “evil presence” had begun haunting their house. She called in her minister & they performed a Pentecostal exorcism to drive off the devil.She beliieved the entire purpose of The Crow was to simultaneously expose kids to the occult & attach demons to them/their homes. She called my Mom to warn her to get rid of my copy of the movie & offered to have her church group come over to “cleanse” me & our house,but my Mom politely declined. I worked there another 6 months,but they never topped that craziness (though they certainly tried!)

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