CRYPTIC

2.5 out of 10

Release Date: 1st February 2016 (DVD Premiere)

Director: Freddie Hutton-Mills & Bart Ruspoli (Genesis / World War Dead)

Cast: Ed Stoppard, Ray Panthaki, Daniel Feuerriegel, Philip Barantini, Ben Shafik, Sally Leonard, Jerry Anderson with Vas Blackwood and Robert Glenister

Writer: Freddie Hutton-Mills & Bart Ruspoli

Trailer: CRYPTIC

930x392-banner-image_cryptic-poster

I doubt the makers of Cryptic have heard of Harold Pinter. The set-up is vaguely Pinter-esque or even Beckett-ian, what with the optulet of London gangsters holed up in a single room (a crypt in this case) awaiting a fate unbeknownst to all of them. Instead we have a ropey homage to Reservoir Dogs and From Dusk ‘Till Dawn and Marley and Me.

The trailer makes this look vaguely promising but once the script reveals its utter ineptitude the actors promptly fall down the hole one after the other. Its a pile up of bad acting and a unspeakably unfunny and arch script, that’s in turn basic and indecipherable.

Six gangsters, a passing junkie and a lawyer are all summoned to a crypt to guard a coffin. Meanwhile, some of the gangsters are embroiled in a murder/rape of a girl at their boss’ nightclub (or something).  Over recent weeks since the girl’s death several of the mobster’s associates have gone missing or turned up dead. Rumour has it a vampire is to blame. Cryptic or what? More like Choc Dip. Oh yeah, and what’s in the coffin? Can you guess? Well, I wish it had been a refund.

A handful of indie stalwarts submit very uneven performances – take a bow Ray Panthaki (WORLD WAR DEAD) and Vas Blackwood (CREEP). Ed Stoppard (JOY DIVISION), usually so reliable can’t convince as the suave gang banker, Sexy Steve Stevens. He has the lion’s share of the bad dialogue. His character is supposed to be the intelligent, tactical one, but his lack of smarts betrays the lack of smarts in the filmmakers themselves. Fun scenes and potentially funny lines are miss timed or strangled in the delivery.  The outcome is a disappointment as it’s botched and fumbled in the execution. Much like this directing duo’s last film (which I think was made later than Cryptic), World War Dead, this feels too rushed and scrappy around the edges.  Subtitles or a better sound mix would also have helped as some actors were aided by the small – one room set and others weren’t. Plot-holes abound too. 8 people in a small room fail to find a door leading to another room for over an hour… I’ll leave you to spot the rest.

2.5 out of 10 – SPOILER ALERT – Cryptic is energetic but it squanders any good will by being a cheap skate in all areas. Even the big draw is a flop. It must be the first vampire movie ever to not be a vampire movie.

Second review by Matt ‘Fangs’ Usher below

WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT ACTOR IN BEFORE?

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One thought on “CRYPTIC

  1. Review by Matt Usher

    I can see how this might have sounded good (momentarily) at the producers’ first meeting:

    ‘I’ve got a cool idea for a vampire film with a twist!’
    ‘Cool. Let’s hear it.’
    ‘It’s set in a crypt, where eight criminal villains are gathered for a non-specified mission which involves guarding a mysterious coffin.’
    ‘What’s in the coffin?’
    ‘That’s the big mystery. No-one knows. One of the crooks has bought a vampire-slaying kit over the internet but he’s not sure whether it’s in the crypt or not.’
    ‘Did he use Yodel?’
    ‘Anyway, they’re picked off one by one, and they realise one of their number may be a vampire serial killer.’
    ‘Cool. Well, when I say cool I mean that’s preposterously stupid but might make for an entertaining no-brain-lots-of-popcorn-film. What’s the twist?’
    ‘There’s no vampire.’
    ‘That’s cool. Well, when I say cool …’
    ‘And there’s no serial killer.’
    ‘OK, that’s … yes, that’s um … So who does all the killing?’
    ‘They turn on each other, one person pretends to be a vampire, someone else goes nuts and kills someone accidentally and so on.’
    ‘Cool. I guess.’
    ‘But it’s all orchestrated by a master-manipulator.’
    ‘Cool. How does that work?’
    ‘He inveigles his way into the crypt through a door no-one else notices and um…’
    ‘Does he surreptitiously play the gangsters off against each other?’
    ‘No, he just sort of … watches.’
    ‘Like the mysterious Watcher characters in Doctor Who or Buffy or Marvel comics?’
    ‘No, just like someone standing there, watching.’
    ‘Cool. Well, when I say cool …’

    Et cetera.

    But what did I expect from the men who brought us WORLD WAR DEAD: RISE OF THE FALLEN and DEVIL’S PLAYGROUND? CRYPTIC follows in the tradition of those films by being utterly dire. What producers Bart Ruspoli and Freddie Hutton-Mills do is take a genre, and develop a new take on it, one that no-one has attempted before. Usually for very good reasons. Then they proceed, like vampires, to drain the life out of their own films by ruthlessly forging them into precisely the wrong shape. DEVIL’S PLAYGROUND gave us agile, speedy zombies with a penchant for parkour, and WORLD WAR DEAD was a bad taste film without the bad taste. CRYPTIC gives us a bloodless, vampire-less non-horror gangster film about crooks turning on each other, which would be fine if the gangster element was compelling, or if the vampirelessness was done in an intriguing, clever way, but it almost feels like an afterthought, like they had to keep cobbling narrative explanations together whilst the props buyer desperately scoured the local joke-shops in a doomed attempt to procure some fake fangs.

    The film-makers struggle to keep their large-ish cast in the same small room. They even resort to someone throwing away the only key to the only door. Actors are huddled into little groups to conspire, telling each other how they’re going to double-cross/kill people who are literally centimetres away and who are themselves plotting, albeit in the manner of background extras from 1970s TV.

    The cast abounds with stereotypes. Ed Stoppard plays the clever-clogs chatty one, a putative cross between a garrulous Tarantino know-it-all and one of Pinter’s poncier piss-takers. Unfortunately the writers fail to create a character as good as that description, so he ends up being the snide kid at school everyone wants to throttle. Stoppard tries to play the lines for what they’re worth, but not very hard. He’s joined by Vas Blackwood, supposedly the fixer, and the nearest thing to being a plot-mover-onner. It’s not Blackwood’s finest hour. There are two brothers: a maniacal-serial-killing-child-rapist (or something over-intentionally shocking of that ilk) who slashes throats whenever mildly annoyed, whilst he brother becomes Australian at moments of stress. There’s a leather-clad femme fatale with an unconvincing-sounding Russian accent, played by an atrocious actress and it looks like much of her stuff was cut. There’s a posh drug addict doing a Dylan Moran impression. Robert Glenister glowers as a seedy lawyer with a secret. Ray Panthaki plays the sort of character he usually plays in this sort of film: smug, stupid, shouty. Actually, that describes most of the cast.

    CRYPTIC imposes certain limitations upon itself, specifically those laid down by Aristotle in his Poetics. Whether the authors of the screenplay are aware they did this I cannot say. But the film combines unity of space, time and theme: it’s played either in real time or something close to it, and it never ventures beyond the single set. And the central theme, crooks distrusting each other, is ever-present.

    These are bold limitations which should have engendered a spirit of invention amongst the film’s creative spirits. Alas the film-makers are bamboozled by their own restrictions and instead manage to produce a confused and confusing mish-mash of half-baked characterization, poor plotting and ludicrous motivation amid an atmosphere so sterile that the crypt more closely resembles a spotless, airless vacuum chamber than a dank, dirty death-filled subterranean catacomb.

    It’s as if the film-makers deliberately sabotaged themselves at every turn. Maybe they’re really clever and thought that making a normal horror or crime film was beneath them, and that instead they’d devise a clever conceit which would bamboozle the audience, and be mould-breakingly brilliant. They didn’t. The dialogue is smug, the jokes are flat, the reveal is banal. Maybe they saw Mojo. And tried to give it a semi-supernatural makeover with shades of An Inspector Calls rewritten by Harold Pinter on a non-menacing off-day with amendments by Guy Ritchie, then given the Paul Tanter treatment. No, that barely scratches the surface.

    It’s not all bad of course, there’s always a silver lining. The title, for example, is brilliant as the film is a cryptic puzzle set in a crypt (and, like the clues on the old quiz show 3-2-1, they’re utterly impenetrable but not in a clever way). I absolutely take my hat off and offer praise and hosannas to whoever thought of the name. It’s very good. Unlike the film, which should be buried.

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