Ginger Nuts of Horror
BY ALEX DAVIS
Dir. Domiziano Christopharo, Italy, 80 mins
Often there's a trailer emerges that really catches your attention, and for me one of the most prominent examples of this recently was Red Krokodil. This one looked like it was going to be an absolutely crazy trip, and comes from a very established name in the shape of director Domiziano Christopharo. So, did that one have as much bite as it promised to from the first look?
Well, yes and no. The story itself follows an untitled lead – credited as 'him' – living in a post-apocalyptic Soviet state. Maybe 'living' should also have had inverted commas there, because our lead is suffering horribly from the physical ravages of what is happening in the outside world as well as enduring a large internal struggle against the effects of the dark drug concoction that gives us the title of the movie.
Let's say this first – Red Krokodil is bleak with a capital b. There's absolutely no ray of hope or optimism anywhere in this movie, nor is there ever any sense that our hero is ever looking for anything beyond the merest goals of survival. The colour scheme is largely composed of greys and browns, deliberately offering up a very unappealing colour palette that is pretty displeasing to the eye. When we do have brief cutaways to brighter scenes it almost feels like too much for the viewer to take in, but don't worry, those moments are rare.
In fact, I'd say I have a great respect for what the director was going for with this movie – I'm just not sure it's entirely successful in what it is trying to achieve. It is grim and grinding, no doubts, but it didn't really deliver the same wild imagery and crazed visuals that I had anticipated from the trailer – in fact much of what features there is barely used, frustratingly. I'd hesitate to call that nothing but trailer fodder – it's interestingly used and certainly not throwaway – but equally this film is largely not what the teasers promised. It's far slower, more reflective and uneasy than that.
The primary problem is that I think it is just too slow – nothing much really happens throughout the whole thing, and it's hard to find a huge amount to latch onto in terms of what you want for the character. There's never much of a goal to cheer him on to achieve, so the story often seems to meander, starting steadily and only really gaining any traction after half an hour or more. Even at an hour and twenty minutes it feels long, and maybe could have benefited from 10 or 20 minutes less.
There are a few other minor quibbles – the voiceover that features in the movie so much becomes grating after a while, the metaphor and themes are a bit too obvious and there are aspects that don't make much sense (and not in the good way I had hoped). On the upside I think the main actor is good, but I don't think he quite has the raw material here to work with to deliver something really sparkling.
I'd almost advise watching this without seeing the trailer – I think I went into this one with my expectations set a little wrong, and on reflection I am a little warmer towards it than I was initially. But even with that said, I would consider this one decent rather than anything more special than that.
RATING: 6/10. There are elements to like here – some solid acting, a splash of really good visuals and a handful of good ideas – but I think it's just too slim in terms of storytelling and doesn't really have the narrative drive that I would have liked. Slow and meandering in places, this one also had a voiceover I could have lived with less of. If you like your cinema grim and nihilistic, this one could be right up your alley, but for me it just didn't have the spark it needed to really ignite this one to a great rating.
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