Kryptic Review – A Goopy, Cryptic Cryptozoology Psycho-Thriller

Horror


Bigfoot isn’t the only elusive cryptid in horror. Director Kourtney Roy‘s feature debut, Kryptic, centers around an amnesiac in pursuit of a missing cryptozoologist and the Canadian cryptid she was pursuing. Don’t expect a straightforward approach to this cryptid tale, though. Kryptic earns its title and then some, unfurling an esoteric psycho-thriller that uses its forest dwelling creature as an atypical monster metaphor.

Kay Hall (Chloe Pirrie) can’t remember anything before the bizarre encounter in the woods that wiped her memory and left her traumatized. A return to where it began, Krypto Peak, stirs up scattered but visceral memories of an eerie Sasquatch-like creature, and a tour group notes Kay’s uncanny resemblance to missing cryptozoologist Barb Valentine. It sparks Kay’s quest to seek out and find the real Barb, hoping it’ll bring answers and fill in her missing memories. The closer she gets to uncovering the truth, though, the more she realizes she’s irrevocably linked to the monster in the woods.

Roy, working from the screenplay by Paul Bromley, frames everything from Kay’s perspective. That Kay is a disoriented amnesiac embarking on a twisted journey of self-discovery means an unreliable narrator that translates well to the psychological aspect of this psycho-thriller. Kay’s unsure, confused state of being colors everything, including every interaction with oddball locals, strangers, and even those who might’ve known her before the fateful incident. Roy ensures Kay’s perpetual confusion translates on screen with a vibrant palette, dizzying flashbacks, and unsettling interchanges with people that underscore Kay’s volatile mental state.

From a horror standpoint, Roy fearlessly gets gross with her cryptid lore. The creature itself retains an appropriate elusive quality, seen in glimpses and icky but scant extreme close-ups. Kryptic is less interested in the creature itself and more about how it’s permanently altered Kay, inside and out. Roy employs gag-worthy nightmarish visions that plague Kay, complete with slimy bodily fluids, ooze, and slithering flesh. The grotesque hallucinations and body horror moments are in stark contrast to cinematographer David Bird‘s stunning wide shots, capturing the pristine beauty of nature. It’s here where the ambiguously framed story clicks its metaphor into place, and Kryptic transforms into an unconventional slice of cryptid horror.

Kryptic is bizarre, jarring, and esoteric in its abstract approach, and Chloe Pirrie is the anchor holding it together. Pirrie’s Kay is almost alien-like, a person trapped in a foreign body exploring a new world. Pirrie brings every emotion to the surface, from paranoia to curiosity, through expression and physicality. The more out there Roy’s debut becomes, the easier it is to track the various stages of PTSD in the introverted, quiet Kay. Pirrie’s intricate, vulnerable performance parallels the acute stages of recovery and adjustment for a sexual assault survivor. Her character arc may not chart a conventional course, but it does feel earned.

Kourtney Roy’s bold debut is fittingly cryptic in form, but it’s all in service of immersing audiences in the unnerving loss of identity and disassociation that stems from a violent assault or violation. Any sense of normality ceased to exist long before the film’s events. Instead, Roy and Pirrie plunge viewers into the deep end of an esoteric character portrait that wields its horror as a metaphor for the confounding flood of emotions and loss of self that follows in the wake of intensely violent acts. It makes for a fascinating but frequently unwieldy watch. Those looking for more straightforward horror won’t find it here; Kryptic aims to challenge its audience through ambiguous storytelling and goopy body horror moments that might test your gag reflex.

Kryptic made its World Premiere at SXSW. Release info TBD.

3 skulls out of 5



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