Welcome to Harker Island! Your tourist destination for late night runs through the woods, panicky tree climbing, and dark scary cave spelunking. Writer/director/actor Paul Anthony Rogers created the mysterious isle as well as the killer monster inhabiting it in his first feature length directorial debut: Crypsis. From the opening credits we learn the title means “the ability of an animal to avoid observation by another organism"...
...Basically, the natural hiding or hunting skills instinctually found in animals. The use of an ecological term gives the impression the movie would reveal the evolutionary uniqueness of The Creature, but biologically, little is revealed about the monster.
After a disappearance, a sketchbook containing images of an unknown creature prompts a great deal of curiosity of what actually transpired on Harker Island. However, the urban legends surrounding the place do not deter five bros who get into a masculinity contest and bet each other to go camping on the fabled isle. What prompted the bet remains unclear because all of them seem inept at navigating the woods and the bet comes paired with a weird list of survival-reality-show style tasks. Even the names of the characters create confusion because the men largely neglect to refer to one another by name until later in the film. And once the sun sets, the lack of visibility makes it even more difficult to discern which character is which. We never learn how these men know each other and character development does not remain high on the priority list, but to be fair, a whole lot of backstory and manly bonding would have distracted from the creature survival story.
Before heading to the island, the men give up their phones as part of the bet and instead are replaced with hand-held camcorders to provide evidence of their completion of all challenges. The electronics exchange prompts the inclusion of found-footage type cinematography as Rogers treats us to shaky, shadowy, first-person perspective of the scared characters. The men are dropped off on the island with no option to leave and immediately separate into two teams Ethan (Eddie Nason) and Josh ( Arthur Hoang), and Brandon (Michael Armata), Kyle (Rogers), and Eric (Jordan Mitchell-Love). Deeming each other the enemy, the groups head to different parts of the forest to build their respective campsites.
When camping becomes a need for survival, the two groups must work together, but they insist on trying to out-bro each other (aside from Brandon). Building spears, rafts, and exploring a creepy cave might seem like simple tasks in theory, but these useless endeavors prove impossible and dangerous due to lack of resources/skills and time. Some viewers might find the dynamics of the group enjoyable and humorous, but others will find the perpetual-pissing contest tiresome. Even when in danger and clearly being stalked by a humanoid monster attracted to sound, the camping group still argue and yell at each other. However, the annoying qualities of the bro scouts only adds to the appeal of the monster.
The Creature unfortunately does not get as much screen time as its prey, but I cannot stress how happy I am to see an actual actor playing the monster and not a CGI creation. While quite a bit of the design mimics the monstrous cave-dwellers from The Descent (2005), make-up and SFX designers Mike Kadomiya and Nick Dennis created a well-made monster which further comes to life through the acting of David Racki. Aside from the physical attributes of the Creature, through cinematography we witness the internal hunting skills and instincts become apparent through a first person POV which uses monochromatic earth-tones to demonstrate the limited vision of the monster. As the Creature chases the men, the death-scenes and attacks lean more towards the tame side of the gore-spectrum, but you will still probably find yourself cheering on the monster.
Trapped on an island in the dark with a monster capable of tracking your every move comes off as a scary concept and the use of practical effects definitely helps with the realism of the scenario. However, the ratio of creature versus bros leans too heavily towards the campers and the film would have benefited from more monster time. If you want a strong plot and believable characters, then Crypsis will just come off as annoying, but if you like creature features and the suspense of cat-and-mouse, then turn off the lights and let yourself experience getting lost on Harker Island.
Crypsis stalks VOD/DVD on December 17th from Uncork'd Entertainment.
By Amylou Ahava
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