REVIEW | Too many characters, inconsistent tone wash out ‘Bloody Crayons’

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A scene from 'Bloody Crayons.'

A group of students heads off to a deserted island to shoot a film for their final project. In the middle of a forest is the poorly maintained summer resthouse of one of the friends. This becomes the setting of the group’s strained dynamics that eventually lead to a deadly game of bloody crayons as the kids start getting killed off one by one.

“Bloody Crayons” is a suspense thriller whose thrills hinge on jump scares and the mystery of who is killing off this group of friends.

The film could be enjoyable but the script takes too long to set up the story. It tries to fully flesh out as many characters as it can, sacrificing pacing and tone, prior to reaching the first death. Because “Bloody Crayons” has a cast of nine and the film tries to give them all something to do, it kills the pacing and disrupts the flow of the narrative.

There are two love triangles, an outsider with a dark past, a comic relief, two hotheads, and a complex relationship between the four female characters. Adding to that is a house that has a dark history of its own, a film project that they need to shoot, plus a caretaker with suspicious motives. The film is bogged down by all of these details which it tries to expound on individually.

The result: the script doesn’t build up properly. Everything starts at zero and then jumps to a nine or ten in intensity over the smallest things. “Bloody Crayons,” as a film, seems scared to build its dramatic tension. Emotionally, the film has no mid-point. It’s all extremes and everything feels put on.

The cast members are interesting enough to watch so the script could have gotten away with less storytelling and more action. With so much happening, Jane Oineza, who plays Olivia, the friend who owns the resthouse and who is pining for her ex, was one of the few who managed to push through from the uneven storytelling. Her character had the most demands and she didn’t buckle under that pressure and even delivered moments of brilliance.

But the cast alone couldn’t carry the film to reach its full potential. The film suffers from being too self-aware. It opens innocently enough: a group of friends go to an island to shoot a finals project but the script keeps foreshadowing the danger that’s to come.

It would shift back and forth from a drama about friends and threatening to become a suspense thriller. Consistency of tone would have helped this film a whole lot if it maintained that sense of being just a suspense thriller from the very beginning.

Because once we reached the game of bloody crayons at midpoint, that’s when the film really gets good. It felt like this is the part that director Topel Lee was going for because the tone is just the right balance of drama, complex character dynamics, and suspense. The story is unfolding but character is revealed and the tension mounts. Everything else prior to this felt manufactured.

And when the friends start getting killed one after another, Topel Lee hits fifth gear with the suspense and nails it. There is a great use of cinematography, lighting, and editing to create tense moments. The film soars in moments when it is underscored. When the music is up, it’s not as tense, but there are scenes when there is no music at all and it just increases the suspense tenfold.

But because there’s so much story, everything has to be explained at the end and it felt like it ended weak because of these explanations. For a suspense film, “Bloody Crayons” is overwritten and squanders its strengths: a charming cast, a great setting, and a director who can deliver the tension. If the film had only cut back on the unnecessary dramatics in the first act then it could have been so enjoyable.