All kids have secrets, but not as deep and dark as the characters of Crazy Eights, a film that was part of the Afterdark Horrorfest series. After one of their friends dies, a group of eight adults go to a house in the woods where a chest was hidden. Inside, they find some memories from their childhood – and a skeleton. After trying to get away from the place, they end up traveling in circles, and after following a mysterious girl into a condemned house in the middle of nowhere, find themselves locked in with the dead girl of their past. As they try to unravel the mystery of their connection, they are pursued by the ghost of the dead girl that they cannot remember besides her presence in a photograph.
You might see a few familiar faces here, what with Saw alum Dina Meyer playing lead female Jennifer and Traci Lords as Gina. But names can’t save Crazy Eights from its confusing, unconnected plot. From the very beginning, ambiguous flashes of scenes and people pass before our eyes without explanation, hinting at the makings of some sort of character exposition of the “Crazy Eight,” until we find that we only see a couple of the characters before we are led right to the main conflict.
The problem is not so much that the movie shifts too quickly in the beginning, because that should be able to be explained away in the conclusion of the movie, but that the audience is left with no character to connect with. For a film that’s supposed to be so centered on eight individuals with a dark past, it does very little to actually develop their significant personalities, other than Brent (Frank Whaley), who is very quickly categorized as an over-the-top asshole and then ignored. Mainly, it’s a struggle to comprehend how these people know each other, let alone why they call themselves “crazy.” Plus, a further mystery is why they have a picture of each other together when they were younger – they can’t remember that they had lived together in some experimental orphanage but they can look at a photo of them in their younger years and not wonder where it came from?
But these aren’t the only plot points to remain unsolved. The movie seems more content with getting us to the actual scares than divulging the reasons for what the characters do. In one scene, Wayne (Dan DeLuca) steps into a dark basement and immediately breaks his ankle, and quite violently as well. There’s no reasonable action to warrant this; it’s just a pleasant happenstance that allows the filmmakers to go on their merry way and get to the killins’. And unfortunately, the film rarely comes out of its ambiguous coma. There’s not really a rhyme or reason to the ghost girl (if that’s what she really is, because there’s never a great glimpse of her), especially after the remaining survivors understand why she’s pursuing them. They remember accidentally killing her when they were younger and running away from the experimental orphanage, but the revenge doesn’t stop. And their logic for combatting the ghost is also strangely skewed. Instead of wanting to remember, they try to burn all the memories of her, as if that will make her happy and go away. If I were getting my revenge on the people that killed me, I’d sure want them to feel guilty.
Even with the urgency to get to the scary stuff, there’s not a lot of it. It’s disappointing, too, because Crazy Eights has a lot of suspenseful buildups that just do not pay off in the end. One can sense a feeling that director James K. Jones was going for the thought that imagination is scarier than what the camera shows you. He builds a scene up with scary (albeit overdone) situations, only to cut away at the most frightening or violent. Instead of terrifying, it drops off into a series of clips that feature dying people who we really don’t know at all. There are scenes that could have been really effective – a scene where the dead girl pulls open Beth’s (Gabrielle Anwar) mouth – but they are snuffed out by quick cutaways.
And in the end, the movie concludes in pointless fashion, where everyone dies and Jennifer feels the only way to stop the dead girl is to kill herself. Of course this would be the best way to stop her, since she’s trying to kill Jen anyway. As the movie fades out, we’re treated to yet another ambiguous clip of the past that acts as though it’s explaining everything, when in reality it adds nothing but more confusion to the mix of a movie that had a hard time figuring out what it wanted to do in the first place. We don’t know why they were crazy, there’s not even eight people in the movie, and the plot drops a big pile of bullcrap all over the place as if we’re expected to just accept it, and what are we left with? A conclusion that seems like it could have been finished before the movie even started, as Jen offs herself instead of letting the dead girl do it. There’s no satisfaction here – she didn’t fight back and we didn’t learn what the dead girl’s motives were, just like we barely know anything about the other eight. I guess the secret lives on.
I was really pulling for Crazy Eights – it had a cool premise but it just wasn’t fleshed out enough to go anywhere. With a stronger, more conclusive story, the movie might have been able to get by as a mediocre romp through a haunted house. Props to the film’s location, too, because it sure is one creepy building. Besides a few tense moments, though, the movie loses focus and unravels quickly after it starts into monotonous scenes of wandering characters who find themselves confronted by the girl. The formula is so basic, it’s easy to see what’s coming before the scare pops out – or in this case, doesn’t pop out before the camera cuts away.