I am not a film critic.
I know. I know. You can look at my website and you see literally thousands of movie reviews. You see star ratings. You see letter grades. I get it. I understand the confusion completely.
But, it's true.
I am not a film critic.
As a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association, I take this idea of being a "journalist" very seriously. While I'm not hesitant to offer my own critical evaluations of a film, it's my highest vision for my writing to focus less on critique and more on the experience of watching a film. I never want to say if a film is "good" or "bad." I want to help every moviegoer who chooses to visit The Independent Critic to feel better equipped to find the right film for them.
I don't want to decide for you. I want to give you enough information for you to decide.
So, what do I do? I share as fully as possible my own experience with a film.
Craving is a badass genre mashup of a film weaving together a tapestry of crime thriller meets monster mayhem meets gorefest meets, well, you simply have to see it for yourself to decide.
Returning to narrative features after a diversion into docs, J. Horton's most ambitious project to date centers around a group of addicts who are besieged by a group of mysterious figures inside a rural bar. As withdrawal starts to set in, a secret one of them is carrying threatens to destroy them all.
Craving is quintessential J. Horton, a master at low-budget filmmaking in uncomfortably confined spaces with characters who are strong but surrounded by someone or something even stronger. Craving starts off as something resembling a crime thriller, surprisingly interpersonal with characters we give a damn about, before turning into some kaleidoscopic beast of a motion picture with people we love, people we hate, monsters real and imagined, and balls to the walls horror brought magnificently to life via SFX artist Robert Bravo and a production team that accomplishes miracles out of all this mayhem.
There's not a chance in hell I'm describing this story for you because it needs to be experienced. Co-written by Gregory Blair and Horton, Craving is a psychological thriller/chiller where the story never dominates but matters and the gore practically splashes against the screen but never completely overwhelms.
It all matters and Horton weaves it all together sublimely.
Craving features an ensemble cast of indie horror up-and-comers and horror icons like the always dazzling Felissa Rose and Al Gomez. This is truly an ensemble motion picture on-screen and behind-the-scenes and Horton has assembled a team that really makes the magic happen here. Horton returns a lot of folks from his film DEATHDAY, aka The Campus, and their chemistry and camaraderie shows here in every frame.
Do you like crime thrillers? You'll have a blast with Craving.
Are you into the low-budget horror scene? You'll completely dig this film.
Love monsters? Craving has them.
Into lots of blood and guts? Yep, Craving has that too.
Amidst all this madness and mayhem, Craving still has a story that matters with characters who mask you gasp and flinch and grit your teeth and shout at the screen.
The centerpiece for my own experience? The wonderful Rachel Amanda Bryant as Shiloh, an absolute gem who hooked me in her opening scene and reeled me in thoughout the film's 83-minute running time. Bryant layers this performance so wonderfully and takes Shiloh places you might not be expecting. She's an absolute dazzler and this is a terrific performance.
But hey, it doesn't stop there.
Ashley Undercuffler completely rocks it as Frenzy, man I love that name, and gives Craving both grit and emotional resonance. It's a fantastic performance that had me rushing over to IMDB to check out her other credits.
As Mac, Kevin Caliber gives the film some major kickass muscle and a charismatic presence.
Those icons? Felissa Rose and Al Gomez both rock the screen with mystery and madness and more than a little chaos. Rose, perhaps still best known for the legendary Sleepaway Camp, is the kind of actress you simply never forget.
I could easily keep going, of course. Holly Rockwell shines as Gail, Xavier Roe is a powerhouse as Will, and Likun Jing gives a performance alongside Undercuffler that is quietly awesome. In addition to co-writing, Gregory Blair gives the film extra spark, and more than a little humor, as Travis.
Seriously, this is a terrific ensemble.
Original music by Everett Young is absolutely inspired and complements the film's many moods. Sophia Cacciola's lensing is dark and moody, suspenseful and in-your-face and so much more. With the vast majority of the film set in one space, Holly Rockwell's production design serves up an atmosphere simultaneously comfortable and claustrophobic.
Are you craving indie horror that goes above and beyond? J. Horton's Craving serves up creepy thrills and monsters chills and mixes them all into the genre mashup you may not know you need but, oh man, you absolutely need it.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic