The 2016 film Kruel (which is also available under the slightly altered name of Cruel) is a dark little horror thriller. It is memorable for featuring the world’s creepiest ice cream man. (That’s him in the picture above.)
Now, when I say that Kruel was a dark film, I don’t just mean that it was thematically disturbing, though it certainly was. Instead, what I mean is that, at times, the film was literally dark! A good deal of the film took place either at night or in unlit rooms and there were more than a few scenes that took place in complete darkness. During those scenes, the screen was totally black and the only way you knew that there was still a film going on was because you could hear the characters running around and screaming. It was an interesting technique, one that was occasionally effective and occasionally annoying.
As for the film itself, it tells the story of Jo (Kierney Nelson), a teenage girl who, after he confesses to cheating on her, breaks up with her dumbass boyfriend, Ben (Dakota Morrissey). In order to deal with her depression, Jo devotes almost all of her time to babysitting. However, it would probably be a lot easier for Jo to do her job if not for the fact that, every few seconds, an ice cream truck comes rolling down the road. The ice cream truck is being driven by Willie (J.T. Chinn) and wow, is Willie ever creepy! It’s not just the makeup though, seriously, that would have terrified me when I was little. (It would still make me go, “Agck!” today.) It’s also the fact that Willie and his truck always seem to be nearby. Almost as if he’s stalking Jo…
When one of the kids that Jo babysits disappears, she knows that Willie kidnapped him. When the police ignore her, Jo decides to track down Willie herself. Volunteering to help is none other than dumbass Ben. Can Ben help to rescue the child while also repairing his relationship with Jo? Will Jo ever be able to forgive him for cheating on her? And will Willie ever take off his makeup…
Well, actually, I can go ahead and answer one of those questions without spoiling the movie. Willie does take off his makeup when he’s home and, in fact, he spends the majority of the movie not wearing any makeup at all. And, though I’m sure some horror fans would disagree with me on this, I think that’s the right decision for the story that Kruel is trying to tell. It’s definitely more realistic to have Willie look normal (well, normalish) when he’s just hanging out around his house. And, when it comes to a film like this, it’s good to try to keep things a little bit realistic. When Kruel is effective, it’s because it makes you wonder what you would do if you ever found yourself in the same situation. When the film is realistic, it makes you wonder if you could survive. If Willie never took off the makeup, he would be too cartoonish to be a real threat.
Despite being a low-budget film and featuring a few noticeably amateurish performances, Kruel has a nightmare-like intensity that serves it well. (The film features a throat slashing that, even though darky lit, is surprisingly graphic.) J.T. Chinn is properly creepy as Willie and Kierney Nelson totally commits to the role of Jo, turning her into a sympathetic and compelling heroine.
Keep an eye out for Kruel.
(And Willie too…)