Monday, February 27, 2017

Cryptic – review

Directors: Freddie Hutton-Mills & Bart Ruspoli

Release date: 2014

Contains spoilers

It wouldn’t surprise me to discover that Cryptic had its roots on the stage – its one-set format would lend itself to that and the fact that the filmmakers worked perfectly well within that constraint said much. It also wouldn’t surprise me to discover that writers/directors Hutton-Mills and Ruspoli were fans of Tarantino and Rodriguez – there was an oblique reference to Reservoir Dogs (the characters can’t remember the film’s name) but more so I was often reminded of the output of Troublemaker Studios.

What we have in this film is a thriller rather than a horror and it is one that is predicated on both the dialogue and acting. It is also a black comedy, reliant somewhat more on character than situation.

Vas Blackwood as Meat
It starts with a crypt and a man, Steve Stevens (Ed Stoppard, the Little Vampire). He is, as we will discover, the money man for local crime kingpin Gordon (Jerry Anderson). Gordon is indisposed and has sent Steve to watch over a coffin. He tries to push the lid off a sarcophagus but it won’t budge. He texts Gordon but gets no signal. There is a clatter as another gangster drops his gun before stepping out of an annex. He is Meat (Vas Blackwood), and he is in charge of weapon acquisition for Gordon. There is some banter, which more than anything gives us a feel for Steve’s character. During the conversation Steve suggests he is a ghost, but Meat is uncomfortable with the use of the word; as though the word could summon the entity. Between them they open the sarcophagus but it is empty.

the Jonas Brothers
Next into the crypt come the Jonas brothers, Jim (Daniel Feuerriegel) and John (Philip Barantini), and whilst there is clearly no loved lost between them and the other two, they also work for Gordon distributing drugs. As things progress we discover that John is known to have raped and killed a seventeen-year-old girl and, beyond anything else, this makes him a figure of scorn for Stevens. The four look for the coffin but can’t find it. Again there is some time spent, allowing the characters to coalesce and then another character enters. This time, however, it is not one of Gordon’s lieutenants but a junky, Walter (Ben Shafik), who claims to have left his stash in the crypt. He opens a panel on the sarcophagus and reveals the metal coffin under the false bottom.

the coffin
Dialogue has revealed to us that there is a lot of rumour in the underworld (such as the rumour that John Jonas has had his private parts removed and been forced to eat them – something he fervently denies) and the mystery of what is happening to the various Lieutenants’ men. Apparently someone or something is killing them, rumour has it that bodies are bitten and drained of blood but in truth the bodies seem to be vanishing. It is eventually revealed that the rumour mill suggests that it is a vampire killing the crews. One rumour is that sex trafficker Cochise (Ray Panthaki) has been wasted – an exaggeration we discover when he enters the crypt with Alberta (Sally Leonard).

neck wound
It is revealed that Meat is the one that ordered the contents of the coffin – though he isn’t sure what it contains except it is a V__ slaying kit. He won’t say the word and becomes agitated when others do – to the point of discharging his weapon to stop it being said – in case the v___ is summoned. The final person to enter is Robert (Robert Glenister), unrecognised by all (except Steve who finds him familiar), he is revealed to be the organisations lawyer. He tells Steve that Gordon has left him a voicemail and Steve steps outside to listen. The message suggests that one of the lieutenants is the one they are after and he should lock the crypt door and push the key through a vent for Gordon to get when he arrives. The coffin contains something that will sort the situation once and for all. However, a freaked-out Meat, who was praying in an annex, is found dead with punctures in his neck. It appears Gordon was right... and there is a timer on the locked coffin... and something seems to be inside…

Ed Stoppard as Steve Stevens
As I said at the head, what carries this are the characters and all the actors do well… mostly. The one aspect of the acting I wasn’t sold on was Alberta’s Eastern European accent (it just didn’t do it for me). That’s not to say that the rest of Sally Leonard’s performance was poor, it wasn’t, just the accent seemed poor. The show is stolen, however, by Ed Stoppard who is absolutely superb as “Sexy” Steve Stevens. To be fair he was the lynchpin character and the writers gave him the very best lines.

a staking
As we are in a locked-room mystery I really don’t want to spoil anymore. This seemed to sneak out and stay under the radar and it’s a shame because it was a great fun film. The fact that there was only a single set didn’t become stale as the characters and dialogue drove us forward. The set was suitably Gothic to counterpoint against the obvious modern gangster genre that underpinned the film. There was a couple of cgi blood splatter moments that jarred a little, but not as much as some as they seemed to be combined with physical effects. The idea that it is eminently rewatchable whilst being exclusively a whodunit (and so once you’ve seen it the raison d'être is spoiled) says much. 7 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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