Craving (2023) Review
Through no fault of its own, Craving had some high expectations to meet when I sat down to watch it. Back around 2005 some marketing geniuses decided to rerelease Eurohorror star Paul Naschy’s (The Werewolf and the Yeti, Count Dracula’s Great Love) 1981 film Night of the Werewolf as The Craving. I was probably the only person in the theater who didn’t feel cheated. So any genre, let alone monster film, with that title has some big shoes to fill.
It gets off to a bloody enough start as a pair of cops played by Thomas Haley (Breakdown, The Pinch) and Kim Estes (Jax in Love, 400 Days) respond to a call to find a bar covered in blood, intestines, and a severed foot on the bar. They also find a survivor bloodied and cowering in a corner. The film then goes back to the previous night.
Les (Felissa Rose, Teddy Told Me To, Sleepaway Camp) and Shiloh (Rachel Amanda Bryant, Human Zoo, M.F.A.) are working behind the bar. What looks to be a typical night is interrupted by gunshots and the arrival of Gail (Holly Rockwell, I Am Gitmo, Last Chance), Frenzy (Ashley Undercuffler, 16 Bits, Final Pickup), Lo (Likun Jing, The End of Spring, I’m Not Sick), Mac (Kevin Caliber, Bearry, The Sunday Night Slaughter) and Will (Xavier Roe, The Activated Man, Each Lovely Thing ). They’re armed, addicted and somebody is barricading the bar from the outside to keep them in.
Director J. Horton (The Other Side of the Ring, The Campus) and co-writer Gregory Blair (The Convent, Garden Party Massacre) mix elements of Feast, VFW, From Dusk till Dawn, Assault on Precinct 13, The Thing, and even The Strangers into a story that’s part horror, part mystery and part crime thriller.
While the extremely large cast suggests a constant stream of kills, Craving is somewhat of a slow burn. In the present, we have two plotlines ramping up the tension, Gail and company starting to twitch from lack of a fix while the crew outside, led by Hunter (Al Gomez, Cloak & Dagger, Angels’ Brigade) and Red (Greg Tally, Bermuda Island, Manos Returns) have given those inside one hour to turn over “the monster”.
There are also flashbacks to the 80s and 90s that fill out the character’s backstory and the link between the two groups. It’s teased out nicely, filling the last details in just in time for the final act. And while that is when most of the killing and the gore come, Horton and Blair, who appears in the film as Travis, make sure to give the viewer appetizers by way of gruesome shootings, beatings, and knife work along the way.
When Craving finally does explode it’s a nearly twenty-minute bloodbath as the killing starts, the creature reveals itself and everyone’s life is at stake. The effects are all practical including a transformation scene and an impressively unique-looking creature. Robert Bravo (Sound of Violence, The Devil’s Heist) delivers so much in the way of blood and body parts that they needed to continue the carnage right through the credits to fit it all in. Backed up by the cinematography of Sophia Cacciola (Clickbait, Astro) it’s an impressive display of carnage.
With such a large cast list and a running time of eighty-three minutes including credits, there’s little time for anything but rudimentary character development and I’m not a fan of starting at the end story presentation, but that’s really all I have for complaints. I said Craving’s title had me setting some high expectations for it, and it certainly met them. It’s an enjoyable film with a solid buildup and a satisfying payoff that should take care of your creature feature cravings.
Craving premieres on March 8th at the Laemmle NoHo 7 and will be available on VOD and Digital Platforms the same day via Indie Rights Movies. You can check the film’s Facebook page for more information. And if you’re craving more monstrous mayhem, FilmTagger can suggest some titles for you.