Mike’s Review: Craving (2023)

★★★ out of ★★★★★

🩸🩸🩸 out of 🩸🩸🩸🩸🩸 for lots of gore.

Directed by J. Horton.

Nothing’s better when a small indy production punches WAY above its weight class — especially in the visual effects department. Sometimes the effort is a miserable failure and sometimes, yes sometimes, its indy deficiencies don’t even show for a minute. 

Craving is an indy horror production in the truest sense of filmmaking, but after taking in its taught 77 minute run time, you’d never know it. This creature feature exists as one of the most desirable horror horror spaces out there “…we are trapped with a group of strangers and there’s likely a killer among us.” 

Borrowing from the general concepts behind Hateful Eight, Assault on Precinct 13, The Thing, and even 2005’s Feast, Craving is that age-old story of mistrust, misdirection, and in this case, a missing link. Director J. Horton takes the “stuck inside a cramped space with strangers” horror trope and adds a rather interesting modern day metaphor about our addiction with addiction culture. 

A group of down-on-their-luck low-lifes are perennially penned in the prison of their own making — the local watering hole. Helmed by bar-maiden, and someone within their first year of addiction recovery, is the great Felissa Rose (Sleepaway Camp). Don’t get too excited though as Ms. Rose frustratingly makes a rather early departure from the film. We’re going to give her and the Craving crew the benefit of the doubt and assume that it was a function of her love of the horror genre and continued commitments on other chilling projects. 

Fangoria! Woo!
This can’t be good!

Director Horton deftly establishes the entire bar crew by quickly painting their archetype, their foibles, and their loyalties. Once established, we’re immediately introduced to second group of hyper-aggressive smack freaks who’re seeking refuge in the same low-down, dirty, dank bar. Once this group of addicts is pencilled in Horton introduces us a third, yes third, group of individuals who’re hot on the heels of the drug freaks. 

The film slow dribbles out the details and early on the audience is coyly given the impression that the group pursing the drug freaks could be a cult, a doomsday cult, a group of monster hunters, or just a syndicate on the wrong end of a score gone bad. 

While Craving could have easily kept these details a secret or continued to be a little more vague about their origin, the film does the opposite and jumps headlong into a series of flashbacks that explain the true nature of the beef between the drug addled smack junkies and their pursuers. The familial connection between the two groups is an interesting one, but somewhat muddled by the Spartucus-sized cast of individuals. If you thought it was tough to track the eight characters in the Hateful Eight, then guess again. 

Where Craving excels is the care behind the practical effects. Courtesy of Robert Bravo (BravoFX) the film is packed with faces peeling off, nasty lacerations, heads exploding, and piles of guts-o-plenty. Several of the diabolical effects appear in the first several acts of the film, but the large majority appear in that 15 minutes when the bar is thrown into a blender with no remorse. Also great is the end credit sequence. Unclear why many of these bits weren’t reworked into the film, but they easily could have been. 

Many horror directors are no longer after simple story lines. With the search for less metaphorical approaches to filmmaking, directors are after a clear and direct connection to modern day societal woes. Craving is no different. By chipping away at rather personnel stories that impact most Americans, Craving gets at some very real and very monstrous ailments that we all face. 

The film is likely Rated R for drugs, gore, and language. The film is being distributed by Indie Rights. It hits streaming VOD on March 8th, Amazon, Apple TV, VUDU. A DVD/blu-ray release will follow this summer. 

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