Adapted from James OBarrs 1989 graphic novel, The Crow is a marvellously dark and exciting film. It wilfully celebrates the Gothic nihilism of the modern graphic novel and was the most darkly exhilarating of filmed comic-book adaptations to emerge in the wake of Batman (1989). Former music video director Alex Proyas employs an MTV cut-up style that has a high-energy kick. The action set-pieces are immensely exciting. The graphic novel was written in black-and-white and in the film all the colours have been bled out of the frame until it is a glistening black with only a few flashes of white particularly notable being the grotesque parody of clown makeup on Brandon Lees face. The streets are contained to within one fantastically dark and glistening enclosed milieu, with the camera effortlessly, sinuously zipping up to roof-height to follow the flight of the crow. (The city was in fact one seamlessly stylised blend of models and sets).
There is an extraordinary script from splatterpunk writer David J. Schow and hard-edge science fiction author John Shirley, which beautifully contrasts the dark emotions with a beatific innocence. The ornateness of Schow and Shirleys dialogue is often hauntingly beautiful Mother is the name of God on every childs lips, [a line borrowed from W.P. Thackeray] or Brandon Lees reflection Little things used to mean so much to Shelly. I used to think they were trivial. Believe me, nothing is ever trivial. Brandon Lee gives a good performance although one in which the script plays no small part proving a master of the dark ironies. For once, the script has the character spouting one-liners that do not detract from the horror but instead grimly underline it.
The Crow is an immensely exciting film. It was followed by three increasingly more disappointing sequels The Crow: City of Angels (1996), The Crow: Salvation (2000) and The Crow: Wicked Prayer (2005) and a tv series The Crow: Stairway to Heaven (1998-9). A remake has been announced for 2010s.
Director Alex Proyas had earlier made the little seen arty post-holocaust film Spirits of the Air, Gremlins of the Clouds (1989). He subsequently went onto make Dark City (1998), which is surely the finest, most conceptually challenging and underrated sf films of the 1990s, followed by I, Robot (2004), Knowing (2009) and Gods of Egypt (2016). Proyas has also executive produced the unsold tv pilot for Riverworld (2003) based on the Philip Jose Farmer afterlife books.
David J. Schow is a well-known horror writer and has written for the screen with the likes of Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III (1990), Critters 3 (1991), Critters 4 (1992), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning (2006) and The Hills Run Red (2009). Co-writer John Shirley is known for his horror and Cyberpunk novels and also wrote the screenplay for the modernised Edgar Allan Poe adaptation Ligeia (2009).
(Winner in this sites Top 10 Films of 1994 list. Nominee for Best Director (Alex Proyas), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actor (Brandon Lee), Best Supporting Actress (Bai Ling) and Best Cinematography at this sites Best of 1994 Awards).