A special feature by Dom Smith
The Crow helped me believe I could do anything, even with Cerebral Palsy, and it still does…
In this feature, I will not be addressing the tragic death of Brandon Lee on the set (as there is already enough about that all over the internet), but I will say that I respect and value Brandon’s performance as one of the greatest superhero portrayals of all time.
Also, James O’Barr’s comics are amazing. For this article, I will be focusing on the 1994 film adaption and its impact on me as a person, but if you have time, go back, and check out the stunning book.
It’ll tell you about Barr’s dark inspirations and give you a much more in-depth backstory.
It’s hard to accurately tell you about the impact the original Crow film for me, and honestly, this is the first time I’m really, properly reflecting on it.
When I first watched the film, I was around 12 years old, and I would continue to watch it repeatedly (at least once every couple of weeks) until I was about 15. I have saved it for special occasions since, where I introduce it to people who have never seen it, and rave about the soundtrack, costume design and overall story.
As a person with Cerebral Palsy, at this time I was going in and out of hospitals, doing painful physio sessions and travelling from operation to operation. All of this was done to help me to walk the way that I do today.
Then, I was looking for hope. I didn’t have many friends, I spent loads of time in one room if I was at home, and I was in a lot of pain.
All. The. Time.
I hated everything, and I didn’t understand what the point to it all was. Not in the way that I do now, anyway.
Put simply, The Crow allowed me to escape that pain. It allowed me to reinvent myself from a super-anxious human pretending to be “cool” but not believing in anything, to becoming a “super-goth” and believing in myself for the very first time.
I can tell you that it all started with The Crow, man.
That tried and tested filmic trope, based on the outsider conquering adversity gave me the self-belief that I needed to survive in the world.
That belief led to me having long-lasting relationships when I was told I would never have any. It led me to a dream job at music and culture platform, Soundsphere, when I was told I would never work, and it gave me the self-belief that even though I was “different”, I could be a part of a community (the alternative scene, made up of metalheads, punks and goths) that would welcome me wherever I went around the world.
Weirdly, one constant at the top of the alternative community’s favourite films (or soundtracks) would be The Crow. Personally, I don’t think that it’s an exaggeration to say that this film has united millions of people and made them feel awesome.
The Crow has possibly one of the greatest film soundtracks of all time, for me. What’s not to love here if you are into alternative music?
In the same way that the visual elements of this film excited me, the music was the other huge part of that appeal.
It was the first time I’d heard Nine Inch Nails (who remain one of my favourite bands to this day), and I still listen to Machines Of Loving Grace, Rage Against The Machine and The Cure regularly. My love for these bands still connects me with so many people and has gifted me some lifelong friends.
Undoubtedly, this soundtrack brought the “alternative sound” into the mainstream consciousness, particularly for bands like Helmet, My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult and Pantera.
The Crow’s music was the soundtrack to my change. This soundtrack, and subsequent releases by some of these bands have continued to give me strength to cope with pain and anxiety in my later years.
Goth Culture And (My) Disability
While I identify less with goth culture these days, in that I very rarely paint my nails, or don the make-up, I loved (and am still very grateful) that the community was welcoming of my difference and disability.
I would go to clubs and be celebrated, rather than avoided. People would think it was cool that I was dancing with my walking sticks, and nobody shied away from talking to me, as was the case in most (but not all) pop and indie clubs from 2004-2012 when I was at peak goth and hitting up alternative clubs around the world.
Pardon my honesty here, but I feel like it’s relevant: in these goth/alternative clubs, and at the festivals and gigs, I met people who didn’t look me up and down and ask me if I could have sex (that happened more than I’d like to admit), they just… wanted to be with me.
I met friends who didn’t want to use my disability to get them into events, or discounts, or whatever. They just wanted to be around me.
These people were different, like me, and they treated me with a level of respect and understanding that I hadn’t felt before. So, for the first time, I guess I felt like I was the same as everyone else in a lot of ways, and that was nice.
I had weird and wonderful experiences that changed my life, and how I saw myself. The Crow gave me that, because it inspired so many meaningful conversations.
The Crow’s locations are gritty and grimy, and this is portrayed, principally by the excellent use of colours, or rather lack of – scenes are predominantly black and grey, much like the comics.
This isn’t a shiny Marvel film. Devil’s Night is on Halloween, and it’s quite frightening.
That’s the thing about this film for me, I’d been actively told by those around me, family, and the few friends I had (maybe it’s because I grew up around Hull, but it was never as bad as people made it out to be) to always be careful when out and about.
There was a lot of fearmongering, you know? There were gangs, and some areas were rough, so it was always like… ‘this could happen to anyone’. I think that made it a more intense watch, as a young person who had to be careful, regardless.
Overall, the film did make me question, from the first time that I watched it, would I step in? Would I help someone if they got attacked? What is the good thing to do, and what is the evil thing to do? These are questions that I do ask myself, even now, as I recently qualified as a counsellor.
In 2022, if I watch The Crow, I do it to find that hope I talked about earlier. I watch it because even in my darkest moments, or most painful times, there’s a reason to get up. Eric Draven got up – recovering from actual death! – because of his love for Shelley (and thanks to the supernatural powers afforded to him by a mystical bird), but he got up, he fought, and he survived.
While I/we can’t ignore the fact that the film’s main theme is vengeance, I choose to focus on the more “uplifting” elements for the purpose of this work, and in general.
It can’t rain all the time.
You may have seen that there’s discussion now around remaking the original film with Bill Skarsgard – Pennywise from the recent IT remake – taking on the main role, which I am excited about.
I’m all for people trying new things, experimenting, and challenging perceptions of what things are supposed to be like. I know loads of people who are very much against it, and that’s fine.
For me though, the spirit of The Crow was always meant to be resurrected time, and time again – whether it’s with fan-films, or terrible sequels (there have been a few).
If a person of any age or gender sees the film, can identify with a killer soundtrack, angsty themes and most importantly find a culture or a movement (goth, emo or whatever else) that makes them feel heard and understood, then I’m totally here for that. Trying on the make-up is, of course, optional.
Thanks for reading.