One must posess a certain command of cinematic language in order to balance obscure narrative with something satisfying. The best example would be the work of David Lynch, whose oddest, least narratively coherent work is couched in the innately familiar. The opposite of that is Scrawl, Peter Hearns’ frantically edited, confusing mess of a fairly basic horror story does itself no favours.
We’re introduced to Scrawl‘s world – or one of them – with a series of shots and false beginings that only barely become clear later. It seems young Simon is the writer of a comic with Joe. Joe’s drawings are horrific charicatures of town locals. Worse, the drawings are starting to take on a life of their own, wreaking havoc on the boys’ parents and a group of teens headed into the woods for the night.
At least, that’s as best one can make from the hectic writing and odd-pacing (at less than 80 minutes, there’s enough story for much more). Consider it a streamlined version of the story. It’s aptly titled, for it feels like something one jotted down after waking from a lucid dream.
There’s little too be said of the cast – all of whom them acquit themselves well in whatever incarnation of a slasher-movie archetype they’re playing. But even Daisy Ridley – pre-Star Wars – doesn’t particularly stand out.
Scrawl is not a always good film to look at – with too many overexposed cutaways and dimly lit halls – but perhaps it was never meant to be. There’s some nice composure, on occasion. In short, it’s not a particularly good film, there is a strange appeal in its oddness.
There are far superior films that examine an artist’s mind overtaking their existence, like some sort of creative ouroborous, but Scrawl does try to add to that subgenre. What it adds, however, it quickly discards, devolving into the slasher film it always was but didn’t want to be. It’s pretension gone awry.
Still, one has to admire the sheer audacity on display, even if the talent to execute it isn’t there.