Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
AAIFF ’16: Crush the Skull
young burglars should remember you should case the joint for at least two
months before pulling a job and always try to get an inside look first. That
might sound like misguided advice, but nobody should end up like the clueless
thieves who blindly stumble into a serial killer’s tricked out house in Viet
Nguyen’s Crush the Skull (trailer here), which screens
during the 2016 Asian American International Film Festival in New York.
and Ollie’s last job was supposed to be their very last job, but it went
spectacularly wrong. To get her lover out of prison, Blair goes deeply into
debt with a ferocious loan shark. Like it or not, she and Ollie will have to
sign onto her brother Connor’s dodgy home robbery plan. The secluded house
looks like primo real estate, but Connor has no idea what awaits them inside.
Someone hasn’t done his homework.
course, they find precious little furniture or valuables of any kind, but there
are piles of grisly home movies lying about. They also find an apparent torture
chamber and plenty of restraining devices. The doors are looked from the
outside, the windows are shatter proof, and a cell phone jammer blocks all
signals. Unable to reach the skylight they entered through, the dysfunctional band
of thieves finds themselves in deep, dark danger.
though the implications of Skull are
often profoundly disturbing, the film is tremendous fun, in the evilest way
possible. The strong characters give Nguyen a solid foundation to build on.
Katie Savoy and Chris Dinh have terrific chemistry as the bickering but devoted
Blair and Ollie. We can really believe they are a couple with some intense history
together that are still into each other. Chris Riedell unleashes industrial
strength attitude as Connor, while Tim Chiou frequently upstages everyone as Riley,
Connor’s dimwitted “crew,” who always manages to stay on the right side of
shtick and ridiculousness.
Although the opening prologue is a bit grim, Nguyen
follows up with a wonderfully outrageous, blackly comic sequence of misadventures.
The house is also a minor triumph of production and art design that just spews
out atmosphere and foreboding (even though it bears some surface similarities with
the Rube Goldberg house in Adam Schindler’s Intruders,
a.k.a. Shut-In). It is a creepy
film, but it earns laughs more regularly than the Scream franchise. Highly recommended for horror movie fans (who
will especially dig the final scene), Crush
the Skull screens tomorrow (7/22) at the Village East, as part of this
Labels: AAIFF '16, Horror Movies