Crimewave Poster

Crimewave (1985)

Comedy | Horror 
IMDB Rayting:   5.8/10
Country: USA
Language: English

A pair of whacked out cartoon like exterminator/hitmen kill the owner of a burglar alarm company, and stalk the partner who hired them, his wife, and a nerd framed for the murder, who tells the story in flashback from the electric chair.

Director: Sam Raimi Writer:

Stars: Louise Lasser, Brion James and Paul L. Smith

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User Reviews

Dan_Harkless 27 August 2001

I hadn't heard anything good about this film, and its obscurity didn't lend much credence to the theory that it was any good, but it seemed impossible to me that coming from Joel & Ethan Coen, Sam Raimi, Rob Tapert, and Bruce Campbell, that it could be totally lacking in quality.

And indeed it isn't. I'm surprised this film isn't more popular in the cult world. There's plenty of trademark Coen Bros. dialogue, Sam Raimi crazy camera moves (indeed, in this sense this film is more entertaining than his recent sedate mainstream work), and Bruce Campbell charming cheesiness. I wish someone would release this out-of-print film on DVD so more genre fans would have the opportunity to check it out.

I guess one problem people might have with the film is that they're trying to watch it as a straight comedy. From this perspective, I guess the film is at best uneven. But the film's purpose is as much to pay tribute to vanished 30s and 40s movie conventions as it is to make you laugh. This is fun, because while the Coen Bros. keep returning to that time period in their movies, this is the only time they really play with the *film* style of that period -- their other views on the past are filmed through a modern lens (figuratively and literally). Likewise for Raimi, who hasn't had much other opportunity for this beyond some "Three Stooges" schtick in the "Evil Dead" series. The only other film I've seen that pulls off this kind of tribute is Richard Elfman's brilliantly quirky "Forbidden Zone" (which admittedly does it better). Both films, for instance, feature the classic wipe consisting of a black circle that closes in on the shot, ceasing contraction for a moment to frame an actor's face as they do a final take, and then contracting the rest of the way to a black screen.

I guess one thing that might have lifted this movie to greater heights would have been if Bruce Campbell had been allowed to play leading man Vic as was originally intended (but disallowed by the studio, per Bruce's excellent autobiography "If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor"). While Reed Birney competently plays the fumbling pipsqueak (and actually brings a more poindexterish quality to the role than Bruce physically would have been able to), he just doesn't have the charisma to really pull you in. Oh well -- Renaldo "The Heel" is a classic Campbell character, so there's some consolation there.

A parting note is that Arlon Ober, a primary composer of the brilliant score to the "Robotech" series, provides a wonderful score here as well, one of only 11 he's done, per IMDb. Almost worth seeking this out just for his great, fun score (the ending credits song is especially smile-inducing).

Mister-6 6 February 2000

Sam Raimi? The Coen Brothers? A COMEDY??

Yep, and a great one, too!

Even a movie as ragged and dog-eared as "Crimewave" can blindside you with all of its talent, effort and loving detail to the life and loves of criminals, love-struck young men and Louise Lasser.

The look of this movie is definitely one-of-a-kind. You've never seen another one with the kind of color scheme, cinematography and Fellini-esque attitude as this one has.

And what a cast! Not only is Lasser involved but also such dependables as Brion James, Paul L. Smith, Bruce Campbell and Frances McDormand (in a bit part as a nun).

The blinding rate of gags, both visual and verbal, is too high to count. I, myself, have several favorite quotes from this movie:

(quote 1) "Lady, you ain't seen nothin'... YET!

(quote 2) POLICEMAN - "What kind of sicko would kill a man and put lather on his face?"

KID - "My dad!"

(quote 3) "Two can live as cheaply as one!"

The list goes on and on, but why spoil it for you? "Crimewave" is such a rich, enjoyable effort that it would be a crime if you missed out on it. Beg, borrow, cheat, steal, lie and bite and claw if you must, but do whatever it takes to see "Crimewave"!

10 stars and a million mega-"hurts" for this low-budget gem that proves once and for all that nuns can talk when they have to.

Captain_Obviuos 2 February 2008

The first of two cinematic collaborations between Sam Raimi and the Coen brothers ("The Hudsucker Proxy," on which Raimi was Second Unit Director, is the other), this hilarious movie could have, SHOULD have, been a lot funnier. The story behind why it ISN'T is just as wacky as the flick itself:

After the unexpected success of "Evil Dead" in 1982-'83, Embassy Pictures, which had released "Escape From New York," among others, contacted the young Sam Raimi about possibly directing a comedy written by two up-and-comers named Joel and Ethan Coen. Raimi read the riotous script and was eager to put it on film, keeping in close contact with the Coens so he could capture the zany spirit of the script intact. Operating on an extremely tight budget, and with constant interference from the studio, "The XYZ Murders" (the film's original title) was finished sometime in 1984 -- and promptly shelved. Never liking or understanding the humor of the movie, the executives at Embassy (being pressured to find a hit because the studio was floundering) told Raimi, "No, this is another one of your CULT movies, we don't WANT that." (These are not, by the way, my words; this is all from an interview in "Fangoria" Sam Raimi did in 1985 or '86. **EDIT 2018: the interview is in issue #64, 1987, page 33**) So, the studio, trying to keep afloat, re-edited the final cut of the movie, releasing it as "Crimewave." It did not, of course, work, as Embassy Pictures went bankrupt that same year, but not because of this film -- Embassy was finished long before they released this, actually.

If there was some way Raimi and the Coens could, I wish they would go back to this movie and either remake it or re-release it in its intended form. "Crimewave" was good, but you could tell it had been butchered (which gave it its uneven tone). In the "Fangoria" interview, Raimi confessed he regretted the way "The XYZ Murders" turned out -- so why not re-do it now that he can probably do anything he wants (thanks to the "Spider-Man" series)?

What a shame that a struggling movie studio took a great, unique, funny movie and turned it into a curiosity. I'm sure, as we all know, THAT never happens anymore.

Coventry 16 June 2005

I went through a whole lot of effort to finally see "Crimewave" (it's incredibly hard to find), but I can't help feeling a little bit unsatisfied with the result. Maybe it's only natural that it doesn't live up to high expectations, since Sam Raime had to deliver a follow-up to his downright brilliant "The Evil Dead" and that's much easier said than done. The screenplay, written by the gifted Coen brothers who just finished their dazzling debut "Blood Simple" the previous year, is overly hectic and far too absurd to summarize. I'm not even sure if this can be called a movie, as it feel more like a series of slapstick gags and insane sketches linked together by the ultra-thin premise of two professional exterminators gone berserk. Crush and Coddish are a couple of criminally insane lunies who wipe out more than just rodents, but eventually meet their equal in the nerdy bell-boy of a building complex. Some of the grotesque comedy sequences are hysterical (the slamming doors, the dance contest...) while others completely miss the mark (the whole car chase finale). The acting is tremendously over the top – what else did you expect in a light-headed project such as this? - and it looks like the entire B-cast never had this much fun in their whole lives. They're happy...we're happy, I guess.

"Crimewave" is especially worth a peek in case you're a member of the Bruce Campbell fan-club. Evil Dead's Ash steals the show as slick and obnoxious womanizer Renaldo.

Super_Fu_Manchu 9 February 2005

Sam Raimi followed up the superb video nasty 'Evil Dead' with this; 'Crimewave' (AKA The XYZ Murders), a hugely enjoyable screwball slapstick comic book of a film, with not a few homages to The Three Stooges and classic Looney Tunes cartoons.

The plot is loose and largely an irrelevant excuse for madcap chases, crazy caricatures and playful one-liners. Sam Raimi shows just as much enthusiastic visual spark as in 'Evil Dead', despite a fraught production. The Coens' script is inventive, funny and faster than a speeding bullet, showing some of the flair that would present itself in 'Raising Arizona'.

Although the central performances of nerdy lead man Paul Smith (who looks like he walked out of a Troma film) and (comparatively bland) heroine Louise Lasser are adequate and entertaining (particularly Smith's 'Ren & Stimpy' style expressions), it's Bruce Campbell who steals the show in a small role as Renaldo the Heel. I'm a huge Bruce fan, from the 'Evil Dead' flicks, to 'Maniac Cop' and even the more recent 'Bubba Ho Tep'. 'Crimewave' sees him at his most OTT, his sleazeball best ("So I'm a heel! So what of it?"). He should have been cast as the lead, all things considered, but the studio interfered. The man is 10 times Jim Carrey and far more charismatic; it's a shame he never hit the mainstream, but he will always been the darling of the cult film circuit.

Overall the film is bizarrely satisfying, genuinely funny and fittingly playful in direction, writing and performances. While it may not be the most elegantly composed film, it's miles above the other bland films of the desperate film decade that was the 80s. Perhaps not one for the average film fan, but for guys like me it's an absolute treat. Well worth seeking out on the elusive Chinese DVD (try ebay).

kurgan-2 5 September 2004

OK it's 'early' Coen Brothers AND Sam Raimi, BUT it's also a classic. A surreal Laurel and Hardy like black comedy horror. One of the few films I can come back to again and again. I love watching it with some one who is watching it for the first time, just to watch their reaction! God bless Brion James and thanks to Paul Smith for making me laugh so much. A ridiculously cool film even though all involved seem to shun it. Bruce Campbell is a total heel and try to spot Huggy Bear as the blind man. There are many clever scenes involving all manner of slapstick, including the unlikely survival of a severe drop from a tenement block ( almost Spiderman ), a carpet pulling extravaganza and more more more. I give it a modest 10

Infofreak 23 June 2001

Okay, it's directed by Sam Raimi, co-written with the Coen brothers, and features both Bruce Campbell and the late Brion James, so what are you waiting for?! RENT IT NOW! Raimi may have disowned this because it was taken out of his hands, but this shouldn't put you off. That kinda thing happens way to much (see the films of Peckinpah,Orson Welles or Donald Cammell). We can't judge the Crimewave that COULD have been just the one we have, and guess what, it's a damn funny, clever, black comedy with enough "action" to please both the popcorn movie brigade and Roadrunner fans. The film is nearly ruined by the uncharismatic lead couple, but that is more than made up for the star turns by James and Paul Smith as a couple of psycho exterminators, and Campbell as a "charming" Lothario. Fans of 30s/40s comedies and musicals ( Emil Sitka doesn't have a cameo for nothing), the more slapstick parts of Evil Dead 2 and Army Of Darkness, the zanier Coen Bros ( think Raising Arizona or Hudsucker Proxy) or Stanley Tucci's The Imposters should enjoy this zany fun. Oh, and wait til you see the door slamming chase sequence! All this and Louise Lasser too.

The_Void 17 January 2006

Finally seeing Crimewave now means that I have seen (and enjoyed, mostly) all of Sam Raimi's feature films. I'd been searching for this flick for a while, and was therefore delighted when it happened to come on TV! I'm glad it did, too, because if it hadn't, I'd have bought it (probably quite expensively), and I wouldn't say that this film is one that I'd be happy with purchasing. I see Crimewave as an enjoyable experimental film for the talented Evil Dead director and star. Sam Raimi implements several of his clever camera angles into the proceedings, and this bodes well with the over the top comic style of the rest of the film. Similarly, Bruce Campbell does what he does best; in a role that is an interesting prelude to his way over the top turn in The Evil Dead's sequel. The plot is all over the place, and starts off with a man on death row, protesting his innocence. His story is then told through flashbacks, and we find out that he really is in the innocent party in a story that features a couple of maniac rat catchers, a beautiful woman, a suave 'heel' and seemingly no end of madcap events.

The screenplay was written by two of modern cult cinema's biggest icons; Ethan and Joel Coen. Hot off their success with Blood Simple (which, incidentally, I didn't like much); this was the second film to feature the brothers' as writers. Despite them having the writing credit, this really doesn't feel like a Coen Brothers film; and that is testament to Sam Raimi's direction. Raimi perhaps goes a little bit too over the top at times, and the film does almost feel like a series of slapstick sketches threaded together by a thin plot. We get treated to some of his early directorial skill, with several really well implemented scenes; my favourite being the one where we see one of the rat catchers kicking a door in from both the inside view and on a TV screen showing the security camera. The unknown cast is decent enough, but it's only really Bruce Campbell that stands out, and that's more because of his later performances than because of prowess here. Still, it's always fun to see Bruce in a movie, and that remains true here. On the whole, this is a good film; but I'd only really recommend it to Raimi/Campbell fans, and people that will appreciate that it's more of a prelude to greater things to come than a great cult flick.

pvanhecke 28 September 2006

It is so strange how some films never seem to catch the attention of either the public or the critics. Most would rightly assume the reason being the lack of quality of the film in question, which is indeed often the case. But not so with 'Crimewave', at least not as far as I am concerned.

This film is so far out that most people never ever venture there and never will. There is scarcely anything normal about this film: even other Coen products pale into normality compared to it. And this is precisely the film's attractiveness. The situations, characters, dialogues and overall cinematographic language is absolutely unique. I cannot compare Crimewave with any other film out there, and I've seen thousands. Cartoonesque, surreal, utterly stupid, screamingly funny because not trying to be, the film boasts attributes I have not really encountered anywhere else, at least not in just the one film. Tex Avery cartoons may at times spring to mind, as may some films by French director George Lautner, or Bogdanovich' screamingly funny 'What's Up, Doc?' ... oh, and of course the equally terrific over the top romp 'Raising Arizona'!

Acting as well is so totally over the top that even just trying to take it serious, merely results in total incomprehension on the part of the utterly bewildered and bemused viewer. This film is totally about style inasmuch as even its substance is style.

The incredibly unreal atmosphere the film exudes is - apart from the aspects already mentioned - also due to the lavish use of alienatingly oversaturated colours: they marvellously complement the overall strangeness of the film.

I have seen this film dozens of times and have never had any cinematic blinkers on me and I still get warped and thrilled out of my human, mainly logical mind by everything this jewel of a film can and does throw at me, time and time again.

Approach it for yourself without prejudice, constraint or any other preconceived notion of what a film can, must, could or should be and simply enjoy 80 minutes of marvel!

lost-in-limbo 10 March 2005

A nerdy security system installer gets himself in a mess of trouble, when he falls for a beautiful woman and encounters two bumbling- but malicious exterminators that one of his boss's Ernest Trend has hired them to eliminate his co-partner Mr. Odegard of an security business and Renaldo 'The Heel' who Mr. Odegard is secretly selling it to… but it goes horribly wrong.

The story starts out that Vic Ajax (Reed Birney) the bumbling security system installer is facing death row for the murders of the security owners and the stunning Nancy (Sheree J Wilson). This is when he recounts what did actually happen that night.

This was a better than expected broad comedy from director Sam Raimi, though he has disowned it because the studio took control of it especially since Raimi wanted Campbell as the lead man. The delightfully fun and noisy story is by Joel and Ethan Coen (Fargo, Raising Arizona, Miller's Crossing).

This is simply a real hammy and bizarre b-grade comedy that deserves cult status. It's filled with a lot of slapstick comedy, in-your-face humour, funny one-liners and over-the-top performances from Reed Birney, Louise Lasser, Paul L. Smith, Brion James, Sheree J. Wilson, Edward R. Pressman and the great and always hilarious Bruce Campbell as the sleazy Renaldo 'The Heel'.

The exterminators are played by Paul L. Smith, as the lumbering brute Faron Crush and Brion James as the squeaky voiced Arthur Coddish are truly out-there in a slapstick kind of way, though they might be funny- but on the other hand they are compulsively insane killers. The device that they made for electrocuting rodents- though they have to turn up the notch to men for this job, it's definitely eye catching when in use.

The direction is good, there is a lot of amusing situations with most of the outlandish action happening through the night, especially on Detroit's freeway and in the lively- but gloomy apartment building. Raimi superbly paces it, while the look of the film has some sort surreal mood to it, as the city has an apocalyptic feel to it with it's deserted streets filled litter and mist. The cinematography is typical of a Raimi film very sharp, yet quite inventive. While the style and the look of some of the filming techniques is very much from the golden age of films.

The Coen's script is filled with a great deal of wit and very satirical moments, mostly in the dark humorousness kind… with Bruce Campbell mostly having the best lines and funniest moments and the little boy in lift gave me a laugh. While the characters they created are extravagantly colourful and very cartoon-like, which makes it fun viewing.

My only complaints are the music score was too distracting and somewhat annoying at times, while the weird sounds effects weren't really needed.

Stick around at the end of the credits, as the film isn't entirely finished.

Overall this is a comical and quite funny film… that's if you enjoy that sort of humour.


clarefrantz 31 December 2005

I watched this film in the early 90's. I had chosen to view it as I had seen Evil Dead and was interested to see some other Raimi work. This film blew me away with its unique style, nod to film noir, use of black and white imaging and suspenseful score.

The story is an easy surmise, with great one-liners, and efficiently executed by a kooky cast list. The scene that really stuck in my mind is where the two rat catchers are stalking the female through a corridor full of doors - awesome. Please check out this film!!

This film was my gateway to discovering some amazing films.It inspired me to rediscover Hitchcock and to follow the work of the Coen Bros, and Raimi himself.

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