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UK Film Review: Brock Cravy's American Epic Gone Wrong

Updated: Sep 3, 2021

From UK Film Review

By, Lucy Clark

The Wild West has changed. Instead of the shootouts that characterise Westerns, first-time director, Brock Cravy, takes a cowboy, a desolate landscape and turns a Western into a dystopian nightmare. Innocent Boy is a poetic, riveting horror story. It’s a thought-provoking film which still succeeds in haunting and shocking the viewer.

This short film is an unsettling inversion of Western tropes. Our Cowboy, Kamy D. Bruder, is a man on the road, his clothes stained with blood from his last victim. Cravy’s world is dark and there's an unsettling notion that this is the end of days. As the Cowboy reaches his destination, Penny, a young black trans boy (Unique Jenkins) lives with his brothers and begs to be loved by the ruthless Momma (Michael Vincent Berry). Cowboy’s destination is the brothel where the boys all live and vie for Momma’s affections. It’s clear that something globally traumatic has happened, but Cravy doesn’t need to explain why. The disconnect from this world from our own is horrifying enough. Money no longer has a value; rings and sex convey currency. The brothel is cult-like. The boys are hooked on Momma’s breast milk. It drugs them up, knocks them out and keeps them utterly obedient to the abusive Momma.

Innocent Boy is a horror story full of exciting inversions and ideas. Not only that, but it is also an incredibly impressive film from a first-time director. The film has poetic energy, but it never feels inauthentic. Momma is an imposing villain, draped in black crepe, and wearing a feather ruff and pearls that snake up her wrists. She is Macbeth in drag. It is impossible not to compare her to Shakespeare’s villains, with her religious monologues and her dominating power over her “children”. Make-up artist, Madeleine Rose’s work is incredibly effective here. Momma manages to terrify her victims and enthral the audience. She is not the only terrifying person in this film. This world is stark and shocking. Blood and violence cut through each scene, and sex has more weight than gold. From Penny’s comatose brother wetting himself on the kitchen counter to Cowboy’s animalistic sex scene, Cravy delights in shocking his audience.

Yet, although the content is shocking and horrific, the camera work isn’t filled with annoying jump-cuts and dark rooms. Cinematographer, Karissa Leicht, casts the scenes in neon blue and purple lights beautifully. Sometimes the colours pulsate, changing from blue to purple to green as if we’re in a club. However, no club is filled with this much violence. Piles of discarded bottles litter the floor, but in the glow of the neon lights, the mess looks like an installation artwork. The cinematography and brutal violence are very reminiscent of Panos Cosmatos’ Mandy. While Innocent Boy is gorgeous and innovative, admittedly there are occasionally too many parallels to Cosmatos’ work.

In this story, no hero gallops off into the sunset. Brock Cravy’s American Epic gone wrong is thrilling and creepy, and like all good horrors, succeeds at disgusting us. Innocent Boy is fabulously poetic, and Leicht’s cinematography is immaculately controlled. Impressively, this is Cravy’s first time directing. He directs with such fluency that it is impossible not to be interested in his next move.

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