Cryptic (2014)

Writers: Freddie Hutton-Mills, Bart Ruspoli
Directors: Freddie Hutton-Mills, Bart Ruspoli

Cryptic is listed in IMDB as a comedy horror and is described by its makers as a pastiche of gangster and horror. I’d describe it as a gangster movie with a lot of humour and a horror theme. Not a horror movie per se.

The story starts with smooth gangster Steve ‘Sexy’ Stevens (Ed Stoppard) alone in a crypt. He’s there to find and guard something, though at this stage we don’t know what. He’s soon joined by intellectually challenged arms dealer ‘Meat’ (Vas Blackwood). Conversation between the two reveals that they’re both in the crypt on the instructions of gangland big boss Gordon (Jerry Anderson).

Other characters – mainly gangsters – are introduced one or two at a time as we learn more about what’s going on. Gordon has gathered his top people together to guard a very important object – a metal coffin. What’s inside the coffin? He hasn’t told them.

As the film progresses we learn that things haven’t been going well in the gangster world recently. Someone unknown has been going round taking out members of the various gangs and there are rumours that the killer is actually a vampire. More to the point… the vampire might be one of the group. With this idea established and the group now trapped in the crypt, people start dying and the bodies literally pile up.

If that sounds a little familiar, well the characters think so too: there’s a conversation about the situation resembling a film… “something about dogs”.

This is a very small scale film with just one set and eight characters – it would work very well as a stage play. That will put a lot of people off, however the directors do a good job of making it more visual than it might have been using the natural qualities of a dark, spooky crypt.

For a film like this to work it needs the script and characters to be really strong. Fortunately they are. The characters are larger than life without descending into farce, all acted well. Standouts for me were Stoppard as Stevens along with Robert Glenister as bent lawyer Robert and Ben Shafik having great fun as posh junkie Walter. The script is also excellent with plenty of banter and great one-liners.

Storywise things do get a little confusing. Even with a conversational infodump near the end some of the pieces could have been better explained, but they do all fit if you think about it. Or you could just go with the flow and not worry too much about the details – the film’s strong enough to drag you in that way.

The small scale and lack of much in the way of horror will put many people off. If it doesn’t then Cryptic is a smart and witty gangster miniature that both celebrates and subverts genre tropes.