Craving is a horror film which also delves into the crime genre. Directed by J.Horton (Edge of Darkness), and co-written by him and the ever reliable Gregory Blair (Amber Road, Garden Party Massacre), the general outline of the plot had me thinking one thing, but what actually happens was slightly different.
Set in 1998, this begins in medias res with two detectives arriving at a remote bar to discover a slaughter has happened there. Upon discovering a bloody sole survivor, barmaid Shiloh (Rachel Amanda Bryant - Vexed, The Campus), the story goes back to the previous evening to show how events came to pass.
The previous night had been business as usual for the staff and regulars, that is until a gang of drug addict criminals, led by Gail (Holly Rockwell) burst into the place and take everyone hostage. They were on the run from another group, a masked gang led by the elderly Hunter (Al Gomez), who decide to barricade everyone within the bar, under the impression that one of the drug addicts is hiding a terrible secret that they will become forced to reveal.
This was a blend of the crime and horror genres, with the first two acts far more firmly seated in the crime genre. It was only the third act (roughly the last half hour of the ninety minute film) where this becomes pure joyously violent horror. From the synopsis I had assumed that Hunter's gang were the big threat, but they turned out to be a bit impotent, with them happy to just wait around outside for events to play out. Vague feelings of the first The Purge movie got replaced with the realisation that the drug addicts were perhaps more-so antagonists than those outside.
The cast of all three groups were varied, my favourite probably had to be the nerdy cowboy Travis (Blair), he was just great in his role. Horror icon Felissa Rose (Terrifier 2, Sleepaway Camp) turned up in a role which I figured would be slight, but was still enjoyable. As for the rest of the non-criminals it was only really CeCe (Toya Morman) who had much to her. It did feel like a bit of a waste that there were a handful of characters who did so little over the course of the movie that it felt like they may as well not even be there. Most the hostages spend much of the film just stood around doing nothing. The drug addicts had more interesting roles, though none of them were at all remotely likeable people. They included Kevin Caliber (Ugly Sweater Party) as Mac, Ashley Undercuffler as the very annoying Frenzy, and Xavier Roe as Will among a few others.
The whole plot taking place at the bar wasn't the most captivating, but what really worked were the many flashbacks to the various character's pasts. Notably, there were sections set in 1981 that revealed how they all met, and for Frenzy, there were a few key scenes that took place in the very recent past that shed new light on how everything came to be. I thought these flashback sequences were a great idea, with their slow drip feed over the course of the movie being well implemented, though I never quite understood why it was decided to make a criminal gang made up entirely of drug addicts. I guess it gave the film's title a different meaning, both for the addicts wanting their fix, and for the hidden one among them with a completely different addiction. For those who like to turn off as soon as the end credits roll, you might want to stick around as the final part of the film's story plays out over the credits, in a fun sequence that reminded me a lot of how Jennifer's Body ended.
The best thing about Craving were the special effects, by the time the end credits roll there has been a high body count with some very gory and visually violent kills. These include someone getting their head ripped open vertically, people's insides being torn out, and some brutal looking head trauma effects. This is all helped by the well edited close up shots that really give the impression of more happening than it would have appeared to be if they had occurred fully on camera. With characters literally soaked in blood on multiple occasions, this was a satisfying blood bath.
When the horror does come it was quite unexpected with the angle they went for, I had expected something far more traditional than the Stranger Things-esque direction this went in. I did enjoy watching this, especially with the great special effects, but it did feel at times like there was only such a large cast in order to give a larger body count. Still, for a bloody crime horror, this indie film could be what you are looking for.