Crazy Eights,
directed by James K. Jones
(After Dark, 2006)

The really bad thing about group-shared repressed memories is the fact that, sooner or later, one member of the group is going to bring those repressed memories back to life and ruin the lives of everyone else in the group. That's pretty much what happens here in Crazy Eights.

Six old friends are reunited following the death of one member of their Crazy Eights gang from childhood. (You'll notice that six plus one makes seven, not eight -- hmmm, I wonder if that might be significant?) Anyway, this guy apparently offs himself and then, by way of his will, gets the rest of the gang to come back and open an old time capsule from their childhood. Ah, the power of memory! How it cuts like a knife through one's very soul!

Crazy Eights gives us quite a diverse group of characters, including a kind-hearted padre, a foul-mouthed doctor and a level-headed college professor. All six of the reunited friends seem to be successful but not exactly well-adjusted, as each of them has recently been haunted by recurring nightmares. The reason for those nightmares slowly begins to emerge after they open the time capsule and find more than childhood toys lurking inside.

Despite their sudden, understandable eagerness to get back home to their normal lives, they soon find themselves trapped inside a huge facility of some kind. Herein lurk the real skeletons in their collective closet. Thanks to the opening moments of the film, we viewers already know what this place is, but it takes a while for the characters to figure it out. Put to the psychological test, several of them break down, but none can flee from the dark destiny haunting the corridors of the place. One by one, the group of six is isolated and marked for death.

I seem to have enjoyed this After Dark Horror Fest offering more than most. While certain aspects of the story could use a little fleshing out, the circumstances make for quite a delicious little stew of guilt and horror. The old building has tons of atmosphere, and some really good acting helps milk the creepy drama for all it is worth.

Traci Lords proves she can act and George Newbern is superb as the padre -- but it is Frank Whaley who really steals the show. Not only does his foul mouth help liven up many a scene, he more than anyone else really brings out the psychological dimensions of the story.

Admittedly, the whole bit about characters foolishly wandering off by themselves and thereby inviting their own destruction is undeniably formulaic, while the premise under which the group finds themselves trapped like this is flimsy at best. Likewise, the film provided me with more questions than answers in terms of the backstory. Despite all this, Crazy Eights still turned out to be an effectively creepy little horror film as far as I'm concerned, one that fits quite well into the After Dark Horror Fest collection.

review by
Daniel Jolley

29 January 2011

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