CRAIG (2008)

Directed by:

Kim Sønderholm

Starring: Kim Sønderholm, Peter Ottesen, Christian Magdu…

Genre: Thriller


*(*) 2-

Craig is a pathetic Danish schlob whom we first encounter in a police station, questioned about the unconvincing digital 'fire' effects which we saw during the opening credits. Turns out the fire in his house killed both of his parents and a sister. He's mad at the investigators for inquiring into his whereabouts, and just plain storms out of their office. The police are too sensitive about his personal loss to insist on the procedure, so they let him go. "We always know where to find him", they reason. After all, only three people died in that fire, no reason to hurry with the investigation. As the matter of fact, they never return to question Craig again. The very beginning demonstrates a profound understanding of police modus operandi which reaches unsuspected heights at the very end of this Danish crime-thriller-horror drama.

We learn that Craig has some psychological problems. How do we know? Well, through a subtle hint: he goes to a psychologist and tries to tell her about it. The amateurish actress lacks anything remotely resembling presence but her looks pale before her actions: she cuts Craig in mid-sentence, informing him that his time is up just when he started opening his heart of hearts. I believe this demonstrates the director's profound understanding of how psychologists work. They're in it just for the money, damn bastards!

Poor Craig, nobody wants to listen to his problems. So he pays a hooker. She chews a gum while riding on top of him with a bored expression on her face. Always a bad sign. "Hey, act a little," whimpers Craig. "Try at least to pretend that you enjoy this!" So she starts moaning and screaming in mock-pleasure. All to the complaints of his threatening neighbor. Hell, even the neighbor's 6-year old son shows him the middle finger. Nobody likes Craig, for some reason. So he does the most natural thing: he throws out the hooker, naked (followed by her clothes), only to run after her and kill her in a dark alley. How? I don't know, the director did not think the murder should be shown.

Her dead body attracts the police. The same two guys from the beginning. It seems that they are the only defense against chaos and anarchy in the entire city. And they don't even look particularly competent. That's what enables Craig to kill several more people before they even begin to suspect him. But hey, they always know where to find him.

Meanwhile, Craig has a psycho moment. His father's ghost visits him in his car. Well, he's more like a zombie, with half of his face burnt. He's not transparent or anything. If any digital effects were planned for this scene, the money must have gone before the post-production. So, he's just an old guy with a cheap 'burnt skin' appliance on his face, sitting in a car. He admits that perhaps he was not the best parent. That's how we suspect that Craig might have been responsible for the fire; even more, that his parents were asking for it. They're to be blamed for his… psychological state. After a brief fatherly advice, his dead dad disappears. This scene demonstrates a profound understanding of psychology and motivation while presenting a critique of modern family as we know it. Pity it's too reminiscent of similar (far better, and funnier!) scenes from AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, where a dead and mangled friend appears to David Naughton who has psychological (and lycanthropic) problems of his own. A note to all directors out there: if you want to reveal 'ghosts from someone's past' in a would-be serious drama and/or thriller, there are dozens of better ways than to (unwittingly?) reference a horror-comedy classic.

And so it goes. Craig suffers humiliation after humiliation. Naturally, he goes over the edge and kills a few more women. For some reason, men don't bother him, although that nosy neighbor guy seemed more offensive to me than a poor stripper girl in a bar. But who wants to see men killed? We are not gays, are we? We're paying tickets (and buying DVDs) to watch bare-breasted women being raped and tortured. And Mr. Sønderholm provides some breasts here. Pity those Italians have already used the great horror-title: STRIP NUDE FOR YOUR KILLER. All the women in this film are either whores, strippers, or heartless bitches just asking for it! That's why we see their tits before they're killed.

However, Mr. Director seems to be ashamed of his exploitative elements, especially when it comes to the kills. They are either off-screen or implied through that lamest of all evergreens: let's show just the girl's feet and splotch them with some red-colored liquid. Let's leave the rest to the audience's imagination. See, we respect our audience! Which reminds me: even the color of blood is wrong. I've seen ketchup more convincing as blood than the pitiable stuff used here.

But, worry not. There seems to be hope in Craig's life after all. He uses an internet chat room to meet the woman of his life. "Wanna meet?" he types. "Sure, why not," is her response. The director demonstrates a profound understanding of modern cyber-culture and how it operates and affects us. "We live in a superficial society," says the chat room girl when she meets Craig in a bar. Yet, she is too superficial to notice the red-lettered writing on his forehead: "I'm a loony!!!" So, she falls for his charm, or whatever, and does not let him even finish his glass of wine. "Let's go to my place," she says. Now, that's a woman of the XXI century! No pussyfooting about it.

I will not spoil what follows since I'm sure you're intrigued to find out if Craig makes it or breaks it. Will he marry the chat room chick and have many children with her, or is he gonna go batshit insane and try to kill her? I guess you'll have to rent the DVD when you're in a particularly masochistic mood, and see for yourself. There's a lot to be learned from this flick. For example, Mr. Sønderholm demonstrates a profound understanding of human body and how it works. You'll see a character wounded in a shoulder who, only a minute later, grabs a knife in both hands and plunges it full-force into someone's back, without the slightest pain in the aforesaid wounded shoulder or arm. Not a grimace of pain, not a wince, nothing. It's just some ketchup on the back of the shirt anyway.

So, is this film a must-see? It depends on whether you're one of those art-snobs who insist on such fancy-shmancy 'qualities' like credible characters and plotting, decent production values or at least competent photography and such nonsense, or whether you're more inclined to forgive such understandable faults like amateurish acting, lazy story, bland camerawork, uninspired direction etc. for the sake of… well, witnessing a downward spiral of one of the dullest screen psychos in recent history. And there are numerous profound insights into our modern, superficial society to boot!

I hope you'll excuse me for having been ironical in this review, but CRAIG bored me to tears and I cannot possibly force myself to take it more seriously than it took itself. CRAIG is a dull character meandering through a dull plot that's shot and directed in an entirely dull way and I can't think of a single reason why anyone would want to watch this. I'm sorry. I wanted to like it, but it lost me at 'hello' and it kept sinking from there towards a thoroughly silly ending never to surface for a single breath of fresh air.

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