Have you ever wanted to see David Boreanaz wear a lot of mesh and act batshit crazy? How about a shirtless Danny Trejo that jiggles around rhythmlessly in an attempt to play up his role as a Native American Elder? Then have I got the movie for you! The Crow: Wicked Prayer is a godsend if you want those two things and those two things alone.
If you want anything else from a film, try elsewhere…
Please, I’m begging you. Try elsewhere.
Story & Setting:
Sweet zombie Jesus on a bicycle, where do I even start with this movie’s story? It follows Jimmy, a white trash ex-con living on a First Nations reservation. He and his girlfriend Lily are murdered in a Satanic ritual and he’s brought back to put the wrong things right, yada yada yada. Thing is though, that Satanic ritual is being used to rebirth the Antichrist in Jimmy’s old cellmate, Luc, who is one of the six that killed him. So yeah, this Crow is fighting the Devil. Remember all the symbolism of God and the Devil in City of Angels? I’d kill for that again. Now it’s just the Devil. The Christian Devil.
Dear Lord, that art in heaven, where the fuck are you going with this shit?!
Fun fact, Wicked Prayer was based on Norman Partridge’s Crow novel of the same name. Another fun fact, there are a lot of Crow novels. The franchise spawned a lot of published fanfiction and yet this is the story line that got chosen for a feature film. Though, that’s being unfair to outlandish ideas. You can take any outrageous idea and turn it into something good if you’ve got the skill to do it right. It’s a shame not one person working on this movie has anything that I’d call skill.
Wicked Prayer, much like Salvation before it, opens like a horror movie. With close up, panning shots of ancient text, it sets the stage for a movie heavily focussed on the magic behind The Crow mythos. Then we get a text dump about Natives on a reservation wanting to shut down a toxic mine to open a casino and the following sequence is shot in such a way that I think the movie wants you to sympathize with the miners. But the overall story is about the Natives where the Crow legends are so prominent. Why wouldn’t the movie want us to immediately identify with the people this whole franchise spawns from? Why wouldn’t they highlight the people so marginalized by the white man… oooohhhhh. I think I just answered my own question. *psst, in case it’s not clear, white men made this movie so even though it’s supposed to centre around the Native Americans and their beliefs, the narrative is delivered on a slice of white bread with tap water on the side*
As mentioned above, this movie shows us the tribe that spawned the Crow mythos: the Raven Aztecs. From thirty seconds on Google, I ascertained that this is a fictional tribe of people. It’s probably for the best that the tribe isn’t real because with white people at the helm of writing, directing, costume design (and probably everything else as well), the Native culture is so half-assed and disgustingly stereotypical, it would surely offend any real people it was based on.
It’s just a big mish-mash of shit that writer/director Lance Mungia would have seen in John Wayne movies and decided ‘yup, the vastly different tribes that make up North America all act like that’. First Nations have gotten a raw deal (to say the very fucking least of their situation) and it really seems like the least the people of Hollywood can do is stop portraying one-sided stereotypes because they’re too lazy to do even a token amount of research.
The setting of this story is the Raven Aztec Reservation. In my notes I literally wrote ‘Oh fuck if I care; bullshit this later’. Well, it’s later but I still can’t be bothered. Can you blame me? Despite this movie taking place on a Native Reservation, not one person of the principal cast is Native. So what we get is a jumble of poorly constructed set pieces constructed around the desert as the crew attempts to pull authenticity out of their asses without ever caring if they were actually hitting their mark.
The desert location is used to frame the movie in a western style and it’s literally the worst. The gang is highly stylized, and each one is introduced with a freeze frame and a text dump about who they are and why they’re doing what they’re doing. Guess who they’re named after. What’s that? You’re saying the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse? Ding ding ding, you’re correct! Is it the fact that they’re trying to bring about the ANTICHRIST that tipped you off? Subtlety has been shot in the face and sunk to the bottom of a lake in this movie. And yes, now that I’ve mentioned that, I would almost rather be watching City of Angels.
The characters that go along with this story are, by far, the weakest characters to come out of the franchise to date. There’s no substance to any of them. There wasn’t any substance to the baddies in Salvation either, but they were portraying an overall ideal more than they were portraying individual characters, so it evened itself out. In Wicked Prayer, the characters don’t have individual selves and they don’t encapsulate an ideal. Unless you count the apocalypse as an ideal. I don’t.
Of the baddies in Wicked Prayer, there’s really no one worth talking about. Pestilence is a guy who’s already dying, Famine is a fry cook, War is a dude with bloodlust, and Death is David Boreanaz. Then there’s Death’s white trash girlfriend Lola, an ex-hooker, current witch/bitch. This crack team of Satanists are out to let the Antichrist possess Death so they can end the world, or whatever it is that Satanists want. I hated all of them and not because they were the villains. Bad guys can be deep and have character besides ‘here is the bad guy, he’s bad’. There’s none of that here.
Wicked Prayer attempts to add some personality to Lola and War by making them regret their bloodier decisions but it’s so shallow and presented at face value that I just don’t care. There are parts in the script where Lola is supposed to be upset about her choices, but then she turns around and says something like ‘this is the knife I cut out your daughter’s eyes with’ and, well, let’s just say this isn’t how you create a layered, varied, and sympathetic villain. This is how you create a villain that’s not even good enough to love to hate.
Pestilence and Famine are left completely bare bones. All we learn about them is what’s presented in their opening splash cards. Then they’re killed, and not even in interesting ways! Famine is killed by a single smack from a baseball bat and Pestilence is killed by a bug zapper. Is that symbolism? In this movie it’s surely just a coincidence because there’s not one fucking person that worked on this who’s clever enough to even understand symbolism, let alone suggest its inclusion.
As for the protagonists, aside from Lily, they’re all assholes. Though Lily didn’t get enough screen time to develop as a character. If she had, she surely would have been an asshole too! Seriously, you’ll watch this movie and not have a single character to root for. You know who you’re supposed to root for in a Crow movie? Say it with me everyone: THE FUCKING CROW!
This is the first Crow that just seems to flat-out hate having been brought back to life. Eric and Alex both came back and happily went on their merry, murderous way. Ashe came back and wanted to stay. Jimmy came back and makes his displeasure concerning that very clear from the start. If Edward Furlong was a better actor, Jimmy could have been a really interesting Crow. An apathetic Crow, neutral in his brutality, going through the motions more than avenging himself. It would have been a first if nothing else. But instead we get a Crow that rivals Ashe in his inability to do a single fucking thing!
Let me drop a bomb on you. Most won’t believe it, some will flat out refuse it, but this is something that needs to be said for the sake of truth. Tara Reid is in Wicked Prayer but she’s not the most painful performance to watch.
Sure, she’s just as terrible as you’d expect: doe-eyed (though doe-eyed does imply there’s beauty in there somewhere, so it’s more like toad-eyed) and unable to emote correctly at any given time. She would have fit in perfectly in City of Angels. Reid’s character, Lola, is supposed to be the Lady Macbeth archetype of guilt and regret after she cuts out Jimmy’s girlfriend’s eyes, but do you think she’s capable of emoting that? I mean, in the last few scenes of the movie, the script called for her to read a book and she fucked it up. How do you fuck up acting like you’re reading a book? Here’s a tip–JUST READ THE FUCKING BOOK! Oh my god, how did she get into actual movies?! Why didn’t she go into porn? She could have been successful in porn and I could have gone my whole life without knowing who she is. That’s a win-win!
The gang members’ (Pestilence, Famine, and War) performances are just as baffling as Reid’s. Pestilence (Yuji Okumoto) delivers one set of lines with his mouth full of Deviled eggs. Famine (Tito Ortiz) sees that Jimmy has come back from the dead and says “I don’t believe it” with the infliction of someone reading a Snapple fact that seemed just too outrageous. War (Marcus Chong) manages to deliver the best performance of the underlings, but it’s still pretty stilted and flat, especially compared to FunBoy or Shank (The Crow), both of which got less screen time than him and still managed to instill their characters with life. Because of, you know, talent. Skill. All that stuff that tends to make movies better!
Then there’s Edward Furlong, playing Jimmy/The Crow. Who cast this guy? Whoever cast this guy needs a solid fucking smack across the face. Is he worse than Vincent Perez in City of Angels? It’s kind of a tossup in the terrible-ness and will probably depend from person to person. I’d personally say they’re equally sucky, but if you pressed me… Furlong is worse. Whereas Perez’s performance was vapid and boring, Furlong’s performance (and boy am I being incredibly kind by calling what Perez and Furlong have done ‘performances’) was distressing in how… uncool he is. Yes, that’s a valid complaint! You need to have a presence as the Crow, okay? I mean, these are characters that have been subject to gruesome deaths and been brought back to make it right. There needs to be a certain amount of gravitas inherent in them. The only thing inherent in Furlong is a squint that could put French Stewart to shame.
Take for example the scene where Jimmy is resurrected by the crow. He emerges from the fridge his corpse was dumped in, crawls along the ground, grabs a toaster and laughs at it (?) and then cries at it (??) and then goes back to retrieve his girlfriend’s body (who was dumped with him) and starts saying ‘oh my god’. Imagine the whiniest, most nasal person you can imagine (Lois Griffin or Fran Drescher fit well) and then read those lines in your head and, I guarantee you, what you’ve imagined is exactly how it is in the movie. Yeah, I’d be sssoooo terrified if this guy came back from the dead for me.
Furlong is incapable of showing any of his feelings on his face. There are scenes where I guess he’s trying to be intimidating but he only manages to come off like an angry little Goth gnome trying (and failing) to convince his parents for a later curfew. There’s no subtlety, no finesse. Both things I’ve definitely said The Crow franchise needs to possess to be successful.
Still, the shit Furlong scraped of his shoe and deposited onscreen is nothing compared to the most gut-wrenchingly awful performance from (are you ready for this?): Dennis Hopper.
Wait, what? Dennis Hopper? Of Speed? Easy Rider? Apocalypse Now? That Dennis Hopper? He’s in Wicked Prayer?
Hopper plays El Nino, the Satanic Cult leader/priest that Reid and Boreanaz go to so they can be married and raise the Devil. Hopper’s role within this movie made me cry. Literally, I was crying. And not from laughing too hard. My body was reacting to what it could have only assumed was me having a stroke as Dennis Hopper said the line:
“Satan. Yo homes, what up? Wicked ass props to you Mister O.G. And thanks for representing all the homeboys!”
There’s only so many times I can hear an elderly white man unrelentingly spout the words ‘shorty’, ‘homie’, and ‘bitch’ before my own central nervous system shuts down to put me out of my misery.
Honestly, the most entertaining performance in this trash came from David Boreanaz. Angel was in its last year (when this filmed, not when it was released) and I guess he was just killing time before Bones started. He plays his character Luc AKA Death AKA the Antichrist like a frantic man-child that just shotgunned a Red Bull and vodka and thinks he can rule the world. There’s a monologue near the end where Boreanaz was, presumably, told to just go off. And boy does he! That Devil-possessed tirade about world destruction sure is… something. There’s also a scene where he insists that his gang partake in Deviled eggs, Deviled ham, and Devil’s food cake to celebrate the return of–listen you see where this is going. Boreanaz strolls around the room with a platter of Deviled eggs, politely offering them to his gang. Boy, that’s sure something as well.
Could you imagine Top Dollar going from person to person offering them Deviled eggs? Who even made them? Did Boreanaz, the leader of a Satanic cult, make a batch of Deviled eggs and a cake? Like, what? What am I even watching right now? None of what Boreanaz does (in terms of acting) could be considered empirically good, but he at least tried to do something interesting with the character. He’s entertaining to watch, in the same way that it’s entertaining to rubber-neck a car crash on the highway, but entertaining nonetheless!
As if this is any surprise, the effects in Wicked Prayer are terrible. Here’s yet another shocker, it’s killing me to have to talk about this. Where do I even start? Do I start with the poorly choreographed action that looks to have been inspired by City of Angels’ terrible action scenes? There’s floaty wire fighting scenes between Death and the Crow that are shit. There’s mano-a-mano fighting between Pestilence and the Crow that’s shit. There are explosions that look like a kid set off some cheap fireworks that are shit. Everything is just shit! Just like City of Angels, there’s no immediacy in the fights. With no immediacy, there’s no danger. With no danger, there’s no realism. With no realism, there’s nothing for me to care about! I have to believe that something bad might befall the hero. If I don’t, what’s the point? The movie just becomes a slog through tedium instead of an enjoyment.
Then there are the ridiculously poor practical effects. Okay, picture this: Lola and Death have just strung up Jimmy and Lily and have to cut out Lily’s eyes and Jimmy’s heart. We get two separate shots of the eyes in Lola’s hand and the heart in Death’s. And they are tots real guys. That’s a real eye. Oh, the heart is still really beating. For real. There’s also some bizarre camera effects chosen. Not once, but twice (possibly more I was mostly brain dead while watching this) there are scenes where people are dancing and it’s just put into slow-mo. Some stupid peyote related such-and-such that I don’t care about. One of those times it’s a shirtless Danny Trejo. Shirtless. Danny Trejo. In slow-fucking-motion. Let me say that by the end of this movie I was pretty fucking sick of seeing Trejo’s man tits jiggling around. Does this count as an effect? Fuck yeah it does! If pageant contestants can tape down and restrict jiggly bits from jiggling, a film production crew can find a way!
Last, but certainly most infuriating, are the effects surrounding the Crow, and they’re possibly the two biggest parts to the movie: the makeup he wears, and how his memories are presented. Both are shit on a scale of good to oh-my-god-what-are-you-doing-to-my-beloved-franchise?! Remember how touching and beautiful Eric’s memories of Shelly were? Remember how epic it was to watch Eric put on his tragedy mask makeup the first time? Did you like those things? Don’t look for it here because this little fucker’s inner thoughts are just a collection of random shots a struggling film student would think are artsy. For fuck sakes, he applies his Crow makeup with a Sharpie!
Oh, and according to Wicked Prayer, the Crow makeup comes from the Native tribe’s legends. So was Eric’s tragedy mask just a big fucking coincidence then? As much as I love the idea of being shown the tribe the reveres the Crow, it’s really sucking the life out of all the other movies by tying it so tightly into religion and tradition. There needs to be some kind of mystery in these stories! I’m not a fucking chimp, I can understand the slight nuances that create a compelling story! So give me some fucking nuances!
The music, something that even City of Angels got right, is yet another failure in Wicked Prayer. I can’t tell you anything technical about the creation of music, but I can tell you that as far as movie scores go, the music needs to create and maintain an atmosphere, and that’s done by tying the visuals on the screen to the music in some way (tone, pace, etc). Now, here’s a movie that centred itself on a First Nations tribe. Seems fairly obvious the direction the score should go, yeah? Drums, chants, flutes–create a tribal sound (literally just do what Graeme Revell did for the first two films). But instead what we get in Wicked Prayer is bland, unoriginal, and completely forgettable. There’s not a damn thing you’ll hear that you’ll remember after the fact. Hell, there’s not a damn thing you’ll hear that you’ll remember during the fact!
The scores of The Crow and City of Angels (both provided by the highly underrated Graeme Revell) evoke so much. Salvation’s score was on par with action movies of the time. It didn’t sound specifically crafted for The Crow franchise but it did what it needed to do for that narrative. Wicked Prayer’s score was… fuck me if I can even remember a single tune from it! And the soundtrack? Same problem. Both unremarkable, both just another shot of novocaine in this already mind-numbing experience.
I hate this movie. I specifically avoided it within The Crow franchise. This was the first and last time that I will ever watch Wicked Prayer and I suggest if you’ve never seen it, to keep yourself pure and not pop that cherry. Some movies beg to be watched at least once for a laugh or to say that you’ve seen it. Some movies need to be avoided like the plague because they’re so bad they’ll make you cry and/or have a stroke. The Crow: Wicked Prayer is the latter.
Wicked Prayer would be a more entertaining movie if the Crow wasn’t there. If this had been just a movie about a bat-shit crazy David Boreanaz trying to get the Devil to possess him, sure, I’m down for that. But as far as this being a Crow movie… it’s just not one. The story is a pathetic jumble of First Nation stereotypes and over the top (not to mention completely unnecessary) Christian nonsense. The acting was piss poor across the board and I can’t even begin to imagine why the casting director chose the actors they did, other than potentially some cheap name-brand recognition. The directing, the locations, the effects, were all so bland and unremarkable it makes The Room look flashy. Oh, and Dennis Hopper’s bit made me want to kill myself. So there’s that turd to add to this already steaming pile of turds! There is a single nice thing I have to say about The Crow: Wicked Prayer though.
Eventually, it ends.
The television series Stairway to Heaven is next and last in my Crow Retrospective series. Let us pray that it will deliver what this holy piece of shit did not. Amen.