The official release of Scrawl has been years coming. In the autumn of 2015, the fantasy-tinged horror film began playing film festivals the world over. While the British production proved divisive amongst viewers, it garnered awards on the festival circuit, including the Phil Tucker Spirit Award (from the Zed Fest Film Festival). Then after less than a full year of playing film fests, Scrawl for all intents and purposes disappeared.
There were rumors of an independent DVD release to happen in early 2017, but no one involved in the making of the movie has confirmed this. Then writer-director Peter Hearn told a fan that a release would happen sometime in either October or September of 2017. That never materialized. In 2019, independent genre studio and distributor Wild Eye Releasing acquired the film and is releasing it on DVD and numerous video-on-demand outlets. Was the long wait for Scrawl worth it?
“…due to their ostracization from everyone else at school, and their love of comics, they tolerate each other’s presence.”
Simon’s mom Eve (Nathalie Pownall), is pushing for her son to get his head out of the clouds and put himself out there. But Simon (Liam Hughes) finds it hard to connect with his classmates, whose interests vastly differ from his. That goes for everyone, except for Joe (Joe Daly). They aren’t really friends, but due to their ostracization from everyone else at school, and their love of comics, they tolerate each other’s presence.
They are excited, as the comic they are co-creating is taking shape quite nicely. However, as they get closer to completing it, they notice that the violent attacks in the comic—whose characters are based on people in their lives—are happening for real. What deal did Simon strike with the enigmatic Hannah (Daisy Ridley)? How does Joe’s father Frank (Mark Forrester Evans) know the supernatural brunette? Can Simon stop the deal before more blood is shed?
Scrawl is filled with great ideas and has absolutely no idea what to do with them. Hearn’s writing is all over the place, with the film having no idea what kind of movie it wants to be. Is it a supernatural mystery involving an otherworldly entity? Yes, kind of. Is it a horror movie about a teen’s deadly wishes coming true? Not exactly, but sort of. For all the scenes of killings and dead bodies, the film fails to elicit much more than a mild shrug from the viewer. There is no atmosphere to speak, and the editing is so chaotic that it fails to overcome the point and shoot dullness of the cinematography.
“Is it a horror movie about a teen’s deadly wishes coming true? Not exactly, but sort of.”
Beyond that, there is the fact that these characters, save for Hannah, are not very interesting. Simon is a social pariah for being a nerd, and that is the extent of his role. His mom is stressed and wants him to make friends. Joe certainly exists. There are hints at something far more engaging with Frank, Joe’s dad, but that ultimately has little bearing on Simon’s story. Then there’s a whole cast of people who serve as little more than fodder and leave no impact beyond death.
Sadly, the acting does not help much, with two exceptions. Daisy Ridley as the incarnation of death is believably menacing and creepy. Whenever she’s onscreen, which is not nearly enough, she brings an energy that the rest of the film is sorely lacking. For his part as Simon, Liam Hughes does come across as a socially awkward but well-meaning person. They are the only good parts of the film though. Everyone else either has so little to work with it is impossible to judge their performance correctly. Alternatively, they are so bland and lifeless that it’s impossible to remember them.
Peter Hearn’s direction of Scrawl does nothing to bring either the fantastical elements nor the horror moments to life. The script is populated with one-dimensional characters whose actors get lost in the movie’s confusion of what it is. Daisy Ridley and Liam Hughes do stand out, but they are unable to save the film. The movie is boring, which is the worst crime any movie can commit.
Scrawl (2019) Directed by Peter Hearn. Written by Peter Hearn. Starring Liam Hughes, Daisy Ridley, Joe Daly, Mark Forester Evans, Nathalie Pownall, Elizabeth Boag.
2 out of 10 Splash Pages