Released as a made-for-TV horror movie for SyFy, The Crooked Man is a throwback slasher flick that shares a lot in common with Candyman. For those who have never seen that iconic classic horror film (stop reading this and watch it now), the idea was that if someone chanted “Candyman” three times while looking in the mirror, Candyman would show up and kill you. That 1992 movie made Tony Todd a horror icon and remains one of the best slashers of the 90s.
Of course, Candyman was just a retelling of the urban legend of Bloody Mary, where a person would turn down the lights in a room and chant the name Bloody Mary three times while staring into a mirror and would – you guessed it – die at the hands of the evil Bloody Mary. With that said, The Crooked Man is simply an updating of an old urban legend, and much like Candyman before it, the format was a basic slasher movie.
The Crooked Man changes the summoning from chanting in front of a mirror to singing a song found online. The movie starts out with three young girls having a slumber party. During the slumber party, two of them mention the urban legend of The Crooked Man and they convince Olivia to sing the song along with the website. She does, and after the girls start to sleep, The Crooked Man comes and kills one of the girls.
The movie picks up years later when Olivia (Angelique Rivera), who was convicted of the murder as a minor, is released from a juvenile mental hospital. Everyone in town treats her like a pariah and she only finds two people who will even speak to her – a father trying to make ends meet after Olivia’s mother packed up and left following the murder, and a young police officer named Noah (Cameron Jebo), someone whose sister was supposed to be at the slumber party.
When Olivia returns home, the murders start again as The Crooked Man starts killing everyone who was in the house when Olivia sang the song – from all the girls to their babysitter to the pizza delivery driver who was there at the time.
One reason that this movie never reaches the level of something like Candyman is because there is no Tony Todd in the role of the monster. As a matter of fact, the monster was just a disjointed apparition of a demon that looked like it crawled out of a Tool music video. Sure, it looked cool but it was in no way iconic enough to warrant remembering. It can’t help that the character was done so much better in The Conjuring 2.
However, credit does have to go to director Jesse Holland (YellowBrickRoad) and writer Peter Sullivan (Night Surf) for understanding that they were making a basic slasher movie with an interesting premise and just playing it by the numbers that horror fans expect. There were no real gruesome kills (this was a made-for-TV movie) but it hints at some pretty disgusting ends. The acting is all pretty good as the two leads carry the film decently on their backs while the supporting cast each dies one by one.
Of course, for a small movie like this, they needed stars and for this one they brought in Michael Jai White (Spawn) as the man who originally released The Crooked Man on the Internet and has no idea how to stop him, while Dina Meyer (Saw) and Amber Benson (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) both have small roles. The three “name actors” are in the movie very little and only White plays any kind of serious role.
There are some things that I have to mention that really drags the movie down. First, the movie is really a paint by numbers film and has the typical tropes. One thing I hate about a lot of horror movies is that the police don’t trust the final girl and then the end just stops after the monster dies. I just sit there and wonder if the girl ends up in jail because there is no way in hell anyone believes what happened. I know the main idea is to stop the monster, but I hate loose ends and things that make me question the plot.
The dialogue was also pretty rough in patches but that is expected in a slasher movie.
At the end of the day, this was a slasher movie that reminds me of what I used to watch all the time as a kid in the 80s and 90s. While it will never hit high notes thanks to an underdeveloped monster and a paint-by-numbers plot, it still remained a fun watch and should provide people with a good time during a weekend horror movie marathon.