2 out of 5
Directed by: Brandon Zuck
I wouldn’t consider the majority of the Into the Dark entries to be high concept, but there’s been a somewhat general split so far between episodes with some kind of “point” – these have mostly met with my derision – and those that just embrace (or try to embrace) some subgenre of horror. Typically speaking, the more the latter accepts its B-Movie fate, the more I’ve enjoyed them. This has made it fairly easy to determine within an episode’s first fifteen or so minutes – based on editing style, based on dialogue, based on tone – how it’s going to rank for me.
Crawlers, then, at the very least, offered a new experience: it managed to be rather tepid throughout, but kept me convinced that there was going to be some nice uptick in quality just around the corner. So I watched, intrigued, up through the conclusion – during which the budget limitations on the series are all too clear – and realized I’d been stymied. There were signs throughout – a completely unnecessary wraparound youtube-style “let me ‘splain what happened” video; completely distracting and stylistically mismatched freeze-frames for our narrator (Shauna, played by Giorgia Whigham) to point out something obvious; offhand and unexplored social commentary – but I was simply misled by how basic the flick was, and just assumed: there has to be something more.
St. Patrick’s Day; the night of an epic college pub crawl. We open on a young cop regretfully prowling the scene in his car, trying to figure out what’s an arrestable offense, when he runs in to (literally) a drunken, half-naked lad. He checks on the lad, who suddenly perks up, morphs into the cop, and attacks him. Freeze-frame: Shauna tells us: it’s not zombies! While the what it is isn’t particularly novel either, I did like that the script from Catherine Wignall and Mike Gan played in to the most ridiculous of conspiracy theories that the paranoid Shauna spouts, and that the flick thus refuses to make a joke of her throughout. Giorgia Whigham is a big part of why Crawlers remains watchable, and director Brandon Zuck also handles her ping-ponging off of the obnoxious collegers that gather around her well, along with some nicely executed stabbing gags.
But once we’re past the discovery that something weird is going on – meaning even before it’s really been explained, just accepting that something’s off – Crawlers essentially spins its wheels. It casually drops in a comparison of rape deniers to the events that are occurring (one of the motivators for a character is trying to find common ground with a friend who doesn’t believe her claims of having been assaulted) but hardly approaches it thereafter; it brings in some worthwhile counterpoints – an alpha male candidate; a bitchy new kid – and then allows them to be milquetoast tagalongs. Nothing is added to the Crawlers “lore” that isn’t apparent from the start, and when we get to the final showdown at the last bar on the crawl, it seems like there’s no longer any pretense to anything – we’re told that shit’s about to go crazy, but the venue is completely empty.
So this was definitely an example of an Into the Dark that needed to lean more into its tropes, especially given the campy, 80s adventure cover this episode received. It does an acceptable job of making it seem like something’s about to happen at any given point… but when it doesn’t, that just releases the floodgates on the mounting disappointment.