top of page



average rating is 1 out of 5


Patrick Foley


Posted on:

Apr 26, 2024

Film Reviews
Directed by:
Naim David
Written by:
Naim David
Erin Taylor, Chris Dettone, Patrick Johnston

A loud (well not so loud) and proud low budget mystery horror like Cruel is the type of film that should appeal to indie and horror film fanatics alike. Unfortunately, crippling sound problems that appear to be inherent in the film’s production make following an ambitious and depth-filled plot a considerable difficulty.


Following the brutal murder of her parents Ava (Erin Taylor) lives with the burden of never knowing the identity of their killer. A devoted detective Peter Savage (Chris Dettone) suspects a deeper conspiracy as he works to put the pieces of case together, whilst Patrick (Patrick Johnston) starts to come closer to Ava who pursues her own investigations – with a much more violent fate for the perpetrator her preferred outcome.


I really did want to engage with Cruel more than was possible. But unfortunately, sound production issues cripple a film that is heavily reliant on dialogue to tell its story. Numerous pivotal and establishing scenes are barely legible, even with volume turned to the max. Others blast out with these volume levels that suggest a poor job of sound mixing that is unacceptable even for a lower budget offering. Much in how the main takeaways from Christopher Nolan’s Tenet were not anything related to the film’s story or thematic devices, but its muffled, incoherent dialogue, these basic building blocks of cinema overshadow anything else in a movie if they are not in place. It’s particularly damaging to a film with a twisting and winding plot that requires an audience to be engaged fully with its set-up to feel the benefit of the payoff.


The film has highs and lows outside of the sound issues. Its central mystery does offer intrigue, and keeps viewers guessing as to the identity of the culprits. Cleverly raising several possibilities, the result is a satisfying and shocking revelation that thankfully doesn’t collapse the narrative. Ava’s self-destructive quest for vengeance is an interesting contrast to Savage’s law-focused investigation, with both leading to dangerous places that neither are prepared for.


The film is let down by some sub-par performances however – Erin Taylor failing to properly capture a genuine sense of grief throughout the film that is Ava’s driving force. A particularly devastating moment that occurs within the film is incredulously met with borderline indifference, which inadvertently undermines Ava’s moral justification for her entire plot. Once revealed, the killer is portrayed as a giggling, maniacal psychopath that mirrors a teenagers attempt at edginess.

It's a shame as some scenes are staged beautifully in a way that feels like a loving homage to B-movies in general. Vibrant lighting is utilised well to stage carnage and chaos, and a grungy, gritty soundtrack makes for an ominous, underground dread that steadily builds until the explosive conclusion.


But ultimately, it all comes back to the sound issues. Under-par performances and clunky action sequences are to be expected and hardly fatal for a lower budget production. But failure to address the volume levels make this film sadly unwatchable. With this issue fixed the film would be easier to judge on cinematic merits. But films also must be ultimately judged based on the condition they are presented in. Cruel as it may seem, Cruel is a disappointment on these terms.

About the Film Critic
Patrick Foley
Patrick Foley
Digital / DVD Release, Indie Feature Film
bottom of page