December 17, 2019 Crypsis (Movie Review)
A bet between friends that leads to an overnight camping trip goes horribly awry in Crypsis. Uncork’d Entertainment deliver the new Horror offering to DVD and On Demand on Tuesday, December 17th, 2019.
At a local bar, six friends meet up to place a wager involving an ominous island that is rumored to be inhabited by a mysterious creature: the first group to capture footage of the cryptid wins a massive sum of cash and endless bragging rights. The teams are immediately established: Brandon (Michael Armata: Derailed short 2014, Rockk Island series), Justin (Taylor West: Point Society series, Zephyr 2016) and Ian (Adam Wolf Mayerson: 30 Rock series, The Judge 2014) are challenging the tag-team duo of Ethan (Eddie Nason: Point Society series, On the 7th Date 2016) and Josh (Anthony Hoang: The First Purge 2018, Glass 2019).
Once their boat touches land, the situation for both teams predictably devolves as the sun sets. Eerie, animalistic howls emanate through the pitch black night, and then Brandon’s group disappears from their campsite. When it becomes obvious that something is hunting the men, the survivors will have to band together and stop fighting amongst themselves if they hope to make it off the island alive.
Clocking in at 81 minutes, Crypsis is a proud feature-length debut for Writer-Director Paul Anthony Rogers (Descent to Darkness short 2010, Nothing Personal short 2011), who also acts in the film. Additionally, it features the acting talents of Jordan Mitchell-Love (Wired short 2014, Adonis short 2014) and JT Vancollie (Unusual Suspects TV Documentary 2016, People Magazine Investigates series).
A film that sees its characters—a group of twenty-something men— racing through the woods in hopes of survival, for what it is, Crypsis is fairly well-done. Admittedly, you’re going to have to be willing to suspend your disbelief in a big way—much is the case with many low-budget Horror flicks—as there are some minor plot holes, and this is definitely not a film for those who nitpick at the minutiae between plot points. However, this story, while rather banal, still has its highs and manages to deliver a decent addition to the genre. This fact alone is impressive, as the ‘running from a mysterious creature in the woods’ motif has been done ad nauseum, but Crypsis at least does itself justice.
However, there are some issues in its screenplay that prevent the film from delivering anything exceptional; instead relegating the entire production to the middle of the Horror-Thriller pack. Most important is the fact that these wholly unlikable bros (you know the type) are already into the woods and running for their lives long before any of them are properly introduced and viewers are invested in their survival. In this, one might compare the film to 2012’s Chernobyl Diaries, or countless other Horror flicks that center on a group of unlovable characters that strike no sympathy whatsoever with film-goers. That said, do we really care if the island eats these guys up and spits out their bones? No, not really, and that is likely because of a lack of backstory.
But here’s the catch: none of the actors care. None of the men in the film devolve into cheesy performances and simply act as cannon fodder; they give their performances their all, even when they are largely there to pad the body count. This fact is particularly true of Nason, who never seems to care that his Ethan is at times brash to the point of coldness. Instead, Nason delivers a dramatic performance in the role, impressively setting viewers up to dislike Ethan from the get-go. Similarly, Hoang, who plays Ethan’s far meeker sidekick Josh, is exceptional in his action scenes, where he perfectly portrays the pain and fear inherent in his character’s life or death situation.
Their co-stars—Armata, West, Mayerson, and Mitchell-Love—are largely given far less to work with, but they all offer up solid performances. Surprisingly, Writer-Director Rogers gives a memorable delivery in the role of Kyle, proving that he is no one-trick pony. While her role is a bit part, Vancollie’s opening scene shows that she’s got a set of pipes worthy of a Scream Queen.
That said, clearly an important key to success in a Creature Feature is presenting a unique and intriguing monster. Crypsis raises the tension by appropriately teasing viewers for a while before finally revealing its cryptid, which falls somewhere between Underworld: Evolution (2006)’s vampiroid Marcus Corvinus and Legend (1985)’s goblin Blix. In fact, while not the most unique or horrifying creation you will see on film, the special FX design of the creature’s head is remarkably well-done for a low-budget Horror film and shows a passionate attention to detail.
Sure, you are more than likely to realize that there’s a twist coming, but Crypsis does enough right to deliver a solid movie-going experience. It utilizes handheld camera footage to its advantage instead of committing suicide with it, and boasts a wonderful cast who never degrade their performances and turn its plot to pure cheese.
With plenty of tension, and men proving that women are not the only catty ones, Crypsis is a solid entry into the genre. For its enjoyable crawl through the woods, Cryptic Rock give the film 3 of 5 stars.