Sometimes a movie is just a product of its era. Sometimes a movie has a beginning, middle, and end that has no call for continuation. This is especially true of The Crow. Not only was the film marred by the tragic death of Brandon Lee, which added a somber reality to the film’s fantastical story of vengeance, but it was very much a product of its time. The Crow was influential in establishing the goth aesthetic of the ‘90s and its alternative rock soundtrack made the rounds on radio stations coast to coast. After the first lackluster sequel, The Crow: City of Angels, proved to be a box office flop, the next two films based upon James O’Barr’s comics would be released straight-to-video. The final of the series, The Crow: Wicked Prayer, would prove to be the breaking point, where the recycled stories of resurrection would finally be put to rest.
Aside from its southwest motif and overall look of low production design and general incompetence, the story of Wicked Prayer is almost a carbon copy of the first. This time around, Jimmy Cuervo (Edward Furlong) is murdered with his girlfriend Lilly (Emmanuelle Chriqui) by a satanic cult led by Luc Crash (David Boreanaz), who also goes by the moniker Death. It doesn’t take long for Jimmy to be reborn complete with black leather and makeup and seek vengeance with the help of the guiding crow. Luc Crash is hoping to bring about Hell on Earth and become the physical manifestation of Satan with the help of his evil henchmen, War (Marcus Chong), Famine (Tito Ortiz), and Pestilence (Yuji Okumoto), as well as his girlfriend Lola Byrne (Tara Reid). If you’ve seen any of The Crow movies, I don’t need to paint you a picture to illustrate how Wicked Prayer ends.
It’d be easier to overlook the shoddy production values, incompetent action staging, and the wooden performances of everyone involved had Wicked Prayer attempted in the least to tell its own story. Through adapting Norman Partridge’s take on O’Barr’s story, director Lance Mungia crafted a Crow film that is paint-by-numbers alongside the other entries: A violent act kills a man and his lover; the dead man awakes to seek vengeance upon the perpetrators; though at first invincible, the forces of evil find a weakness in the hero; before a mystical ceremony takes place which will grant evil unlimited power, the resurrected man defeats evil and sets things right before returning to the afterlife. And scene. Amazingly, it took three screenwriters to craft this generic tale of revenge, Mungia, Jeff Most, and Sean Hood.
Poor, poor Edward Furlong. Not only was the young actor subject to a number of public substance abuse issues, but the young actor had the misfortune of being woefully miscast in what could’ve been a comeback role. He is incapable of finding the right balance between the heartache of a lost soul and the menace of a specter searching for vengeance. It’s painful to watch this awkward performance in a terribly awkward film.
If there’s some consolation for Furlong it’s the simple fact that he’s not the only one that is completely out of sync. As the leader of a satanic cult, David Boreanaz dons a laughably obvious wig and is never more menacing than your average birthday party clown. Later in the film, as he tries to become the physical reincarnation of Satan, Boreanaz’s Luc Crash is coached by El Niño, played by Dennis Hopper likely paying off some modest gambling debts. Amazingly, Hopper’s performance is easily the most embarrassing aspect of the film, his face slathered in Just For Men and given lines that are punctuated with the legendary actor/director saying, “Homey.” Because The Crow: Wicked Prayer is an equal opportunity embarrassment, Tara Reid plays the villainous love of Luc Crash’s life, who has a sudden moment of realization that her evil ways might be going too far. This only happens after she’s been an active participant in a number of murders, including the removal of Lilly’s eyes. There’s a line between good bad, not evil and she just won’t cross it.
Whether it’s the murder of Lilly or the out of the blue redemption of Lola, The Crow: Wicked Prayer treats its women as props, not as characters with agency that make choices. Lilly exists only to be murdered and avenged, and maybe to appear in a few flashbacks where she can recite some nonsense about the crow being an animal of another realm. Conversely, Lola exists to be a force of evil until she isn’t. The reasons for her choice are vague and ill-defined, as if she grew a conscience because it was convenient for the narrative. Does the Bechdel Test still count if the two women are props for men and still have a conversation that’s not about men? I’m only asking because The Crow: Wicked Prayer seems to occupy some kind of Bechdel Test purgatory.
Wicked Prayer killed The Crow franchise, only it did so far too late. Whatever gun powder that was employed in The Crow: Wicked Prayer was powerful enough to kill the franchise almost for good. A remake of the original has been in the works for a number of years with Jack Huston and Bradley Cooper cast as the lead at various points during its time in development hell, but with the recent bankruptcy troubles of Relativity, the studio that holds the rights to the property, it seems that The Crow will never be resurrected. That’s not a bad thing, because we know the story has its limits. It has been told adequately once before, and only once before. There’s no need to resurrect what has already been dead and buried for over decade. I don’t care who’s involved, dead is dead and The Crow: Wicked Prayer merely proved how dead it was.