Review by Hunter Miele
Remember the absolute, unadulterated terror that you felt as a high school or college student with a rapidly approaching essay due date? That feeling when you’re one page into a ten page paper with three hours left to submit it is beyond compare. The fear of receiving a bad grade is a motivator that almost all of us have experience with. “Cram’s” (written and directed by Abie Sidell) portrayal of that familiar type of fear is dead-on and absolutely horrific in all the best ways.
“Cram” opens with three friends casually studying in their college’s library. Marc, the film’s protagonist, is pestering his friend Alice for her essay so that he can copy it. Alice is getting angrier and angrier at the fact that she has to help Marc cheat thanks to his (apparently pretty on-brand) laziness. This opening scene is a little slow, but it’s fun getting to know the characters. Their banter establishes their personalities well and provides a relatable laugh.
Marc’s friends leave and the cramming montage begins. He falls asleep sitting up in the library and when he wakes up the library is dark and empty. He discovers his handwritten notes are gone and the document on his computer is blank. He begins to scour the library in search of whoever or whatever managed to steal all of his hard work. The score is quiet and ominous as he navigates the library’s dark halls and the exceptional camera work that is evident throughout the film gives this scene a very spooky feel.
Marc enters the library’s copy room and the copy machine is firing out graded exam papers at rapid speed. He inspects the papers and discovers that every one is his own paper, each branded with a bold, red “F”. Marc hurriedly tries to shut off the machine but is distracted by a noise behind him. When he turns around he sees the terrifying figure of a nude, old man with long, gnarled fingers standing on a desk, hovering over him. The man pulls out an old-fashioned quilled pen and stabs himself in the eye with it. Fortunately for the viewer, this isn’t even close to “Cram’s” most alarming scene. The film is rife with disturbing characters that give it both a horrific and fantastical quality.
It’s always a blessing to discover a film that takes a mundane concept and expresses it in an eccentric and creative way. “Cram’s” blend of horror and fantasy is perfect to convey the anxiety that comes with the college experience. Every monster is unique and downright horrifying, while the reveal of the antagonist in the final scene of the film is shocking and wraps up the film beautifully. The relationships between “Cram’s” characters are thoroughly established, which is pretty impressive for a film that’s only 40 minutes long. But don’t be fooled- its short run time definitely shouldn’t imply that it won’t deliver a fair share of terror.
MARCH 17| DIGITAL
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