For anyone who has grown up in the United States, St. Patrick’s Day has come to take on a whole level of holiday shenanigans. Cities turn rivers green. Livers fail nationwide as many use it as an excuse to gorge themselves on overpriced beer. Oh, and if you don’t wear green, some asshole is going to try to come over and pinch you because “that’s what tradition tells us to do.” If I sound salty, that’s because I loathe what the holiday has become. In the chaos and shenanigans, such revelry brings, it is arguably the perfect concoction for a more murderous and destructive sort of chaos. While Hulu and Blumhouse experiment with that chaos in the horror anthology series INTO THE DARK’s St. Patrick’s Day-themed episode titled CRAWLERS, it lands flat with a loud UFO-style crash to the ground and never gets back up.
The episode focuses on Saint Patrick’s Day, which is generally the go-to holiday when people think of what holidays are coming up in March. Taking place in a college town in the middle of nowhere, it’s a night full of wild parties and a pub crawl that leads to a rave-like warehouse situation. We are introduced to the local drug dealer who is also a conspiracy theorist Shauna (Giorgia Whigham). If you think she’s going to be the coolest character, wait until you find out she narrates and provides exposition during the entirety of the film’s duration. Then there’s Misty (Pepi Sonuga), who has been struggling after reconciling with a potential sexual assault. Unfortunately, the sexual assault plot point reads more like a cheap accessory rather than an exploration of anything meaningful. Then there’s Aaron (Cameron Fuller). He is showcased as the potential bad guy because his fraternity is known for roofies and sexual assault, so he too must be a rapist. However, as he later points out to Misty, he isn’t a rapist and can do better. All of these individual mini-plot points and drama are dealt with while the town of Emerald Springs deals with an alien invasion. So, as any band semi-self aware college students do, they set out to find the source and destroy it.
As I always try to do, I’m going to refrain from spoiling as much as possible. With that being said, CRAWLERS is no doubt the weakest episode of the past two seasons of the INTO THE DARK anthology series. And I don’t say that lightly. Generally, I’ve found the bulk of the episodes to be mostly okay, with a couple of notable, positive standouts. However, this particular episode suffered from the same problem I had with what I previously considered the weakest in the overall anthology, INTO THE DARK‘s They Come Knocking, which is the script. Unlike They Come Knocking, though, there is no real predictability to the storyline. There’s a hell of a lot of exposition that attempts to convey what the alien invasion is, but doesn’t do much to relay why these aliens are a threat and why we should care about these obnoxious college students getting killed and replaced. The plot is so thinly stitched together that there is no real reason why the episode itself should have been 85 minutes long.
Leaning into my comment about the plot, I have to really focus on the elephant in the room which is the emphasis on the sexual assault plot point. For as much unnecessary heat that has been thrown at #MeToo storylines from certain properties in the past year or so (cough, Black Christmas, cough), I will argue that at least these films actually dissected and did something substantial with that particular subject matter. This film did not. In fact, it really did feel that this film merely included it as an accessory to make it seem more relevant to the current socio-political climate without having anything to really say about the subject. I say this because outside of Misty lashing out at individual people around her for condoning the continuous shitty behavior from the fraternity, the information usually just panned out onscreen as passive-aggressive attempts to be clever or to be the catalyst for Misty to finally get it into her mind that her friend Chloe (Jude Demorest) is literally just a garbage person. However, even upon realizing this, there’s no emotional payoff. There’s no real arc of her reconciling with the sexual assault. The plot point just lies there dead and poorly used.
I wish I could say that there was something that salvaged the film for me, but I honestly can’t think of anything except maybe the sound editing. The opening credits are pretty fun, with the song ‘There Will Be Blood‘ that actually ends up being a false warning. What carnage there is featured in the film is pretty minimal with the exception of some brutal head-smashing. I did appreciate the homages paid to films like The Thing and maybe even with The World’s End, which is arguably my favorite of Edgar Wright’s trilogy. And, considering the limited budget on the film and the overall script, I think director Brandon Zuck did his best to try to string together some coherency with some interesting creative decisions. The back and forth between Shauna’s webcast is arguably a decision I both loved and hated because it helped give the audience some breathing room to take in what new info they had, but also helped separate the long film into different acts. However, her lines felt like they were trying too hard to be clever and they just weren’t.
Look. I hate that I didn’t like CRAWLERS. I generally try to find the positive in everything I watch, but this was pretty bad. Knowing how quickly Blumhouse and Hulu crank these out, I really do think that this is one of those instances where they should have reworked the script to create something more cohesive, even if it meant delaying the release of the film on the streaming service. The script itself had potential. The concept of the hive mind, body morphing aliens has been done, but the transformation after taking a chunk of flesh had promise. However, I think the budget, time constraints, and the script prevented the film from developing to a point where it could actually be just okay. My recommendation would be to skip this film and either start-up the last March addition to the anthology, Treehouse, or rewatch the Leprechaun franchise.
CRAWLERS will be available on Hulu tomorrow, March 6, 2020.
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