Surreal does not even begin to describe the 2020 indie film Crucify, a colorfully explosive mind-trip that is an exploration of duality and reflection. In their feature film debut as directors (individually and as partners), Paul Erskine and J. Arcane (who also wrote the screenplay) combine nightmarish imagery with ear-tingling music to create an otherworldly atmosphere, one that is claustrophobia-inducing as their protagonists become inexplicably trapped in the purgatory-like loop of a haunted house. It sounded great but it was personally not my cup of tea, though if you are looking for something weird and different Crucify may just be what you are looking for.

Described as “A neon-noir thriller” — neon? certainly. noir? not really — Crucify follows two teens, Raven (Shanel Maida) and Nic (Dylen Michael Guiry). After rejecting Nic’s prom proposal, these two childhood friends who have some serious inner demons for being so young, for some reason, decide to go hang out at a haunted house. Soon after entering the eerie domicile, they begin to experience the horrors of the crimes which took place within its walls, as well as the horrors that physically manifest from within themselves.

It is not the kind of movie that one can take their eyes off of, not because it is so entrancing but rather because it is so confusing if you miss even one second. There was one sequence that led into the midpoint of the film that reminded me of the rape scene in Rosemary’s Baby and shots from Perfect Blue that was pretty compelling, and then luckily from that point, the film continued slightly better in the narrative than its first half. It is a neon fevered dream, composed of micro clips that are typically used for short periods of time in movies to induce disorientation, like blacking out and remembering events in clips instead of a full reel. Arcane & Erskine do this style throughout the entire movie, making everything seem disconnected and like there is no cohesive plot, which is not helped by that lack of conversation to even build a plot upon.

The sparse dialogue was probably for the best – what little there was, it had that distinct amateur tone, except for Alina Lapteva as Willa, who poured her character’s pain into her eyes. It seemed like Crucify was shooting for arthouse but bounced off the rim and into a completely new dimension. It tries to flesh out this otherworldly dimension with symbolism, like a music box seemingly representing memory (or a loss of memory), and having crosses literally everywhere. The use of inverted and right side up crosses seemed to represent the struggle of good vs. evil in the demonic aspect of the narrative, but the “reflection” characters seemed more like poltergeist than demons and so the religious angle was lost on me. It felt like it was trying very hard at some sort of demonic Lovecraftian horror, and in the end, I was a lot more confused than chilled to my bones. Since the whole film was a rapid series of clips, there was no pause for tension or room for fear to be built, and the film mostly relied on its neon cinematography and atmosphere – beauty before substance.

The overall story becomes more cohesive as the threads are sewn together while reflecting after the movie. It is difficult to explain, but I would say this film is more of an experience than a narrative journey like most movies. Crucify feels like the kind of movie that requires multiple viewings to grasp everything and appreciate its artistic decisions, but its exhausting demand for following its non-linear, abstract storytelling and its uncomfortably relentless aesthetic is not much motivation for me, personally. To tumble down a rabbit hole of a ghostly love story set in a stained glass snow-globe, Arcane & Erskine’s indie thriller Crucify is available streaming on Amazon.

MOVIE RATING — 5.5 out of 10 ☠️


Runtime:1hrs. 20 Mins.
Directed By:
Written By: