Review: No Crying Wolf in J.P. Willie’s Crybaby Bridge: A Louisiana Urban Legend
Honk three times if you dare, or so the legend goes.
When we spoke to horror creator J.P. Willie last year, he promised us he had big plans for the genre. As an active duty member of the armed forces, he has still found time to write his own horror novel and create two short horror films. The first of these films, Crybaby Bridge: A Louisiana Urban Legend, has finally finished post-production and is gearing up to hit the film festival scene this summer. Willie was kind enough to reach back out to Dead Entertainment and let us preview his completed work.
Crybaby Bridge: A Louisiana Urban Legend, as the title implies, is based on a local tall tale Willie was familiar with. The short film, coming in at just under 12 minutes, is primarily focused on two friends, Derek (Zakery Jones) and Lionel (Adrian Richard), who head out to the eponymous bridge.
The legend goes, if you park on the bridge and honk the car horn three times, the ghost of a pregnant woman murdered underneath will appear. The two friends do just that while enjoying a few beers, skeptical that anything will actually happen before their big night of partying.
The film then jumps back and forth between Crybaby Bridge and the local bar, where a creepy stranger (Joey Alonzo) is getting visibly intoxicated while eavesdropping on waiting friends of Derek and Lionel. He eventually approaches the girls, telling them the legend is anything but… and it’s not a ghost, but something else: a vengeful spirit and “a mistake he corrected himself,” outing himself as her killer.
The Stranger further warns that they need to call their friends and get them off Crybaby Bridge, because the spirit won’t stop until she gets the one thing she desires – the one thing taken away from her. Needless to say, things don’t end well for Derek and Lionel, although you will have to watch the film for yourself to find out.
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Crybaby Bridge has that indie horror charm that I love to see from the genre. Right away, it is easy to tell how much passion went into this film. From writer, editor, and director J.P. Willie to the cast and crew, it is clear that this was a labor of love for all involved and they brought their "A" game.
While there wasn’t time for much character development, we do get to know our two main characters enough to take a liking to them and their friendship seems very genuine and believable. Jones and Richard have a great chemistry on screen and their performances really shine as they go from care-free youths to terrified victims. Alonzo’s Stranger character also really stands out, being both genuinely creepy yet somewhat sympathetic.
I also have to give a shout out to the band, Lost Outrider, who did the soundtrack for the film while also featuring some tracks by Seeking 85, rapper Fresh P, and Futurecop! feat. New Arcades. Willie managed to sneak a nice mix of genres into his film, from heavy metal to rap, while the ambient music by Lost Outrider really brings the mood home, inspiring a sense of doom and despair near the film’s conclusion.
Also of note is while there is a minimal amount of gore and special effects, what Crybaby Bridge does do, it does right. The vengeful spirit is legitimately kind of unnerving and one particular blood splatter near the end was extremely satisfying, partly because I wasn’t expecting so much of it in that moment. It actually made me chuckle in a good way, almost feeling like a throwback to the Evil Dead films.
The short does a nice job building up the atmosphere and tension. It’s not initially clear if the focus of the story is on a ghost or just a deranged killer, which kept me guessing until the final minutes. Everything is well-shot with solid cinematography, good gore effects, and a kick-ass soundtrack. The lead actors have a good chemistry, but it is The Stranger that steals the show.
It would have been nice to see a bit more of the vengeful spirit. She only pops up a few times briefly, but this was likely a creative choice by director J.P. Willie. The other “negative” results from the length of the film, as there is a lot of story fit into such a short time. We don’t get as much character development as a full-length film, which makes most of the characters, especially the girls back at the bar, fall a little flat. In particular, the constant jumps between the bridge and bar locations throw off the pacing a bit.
Crybaby Bridge: A Louisiana Urban Legend is a solid short film overall, especially for Willie’s debut as a horror director. There was enough here to hold my interest the entire time, keeping the wheels in my head turning as I tried to piece together what was really going on. The overall theme of loss and the refusal to accept it, even in death, was also one that hit home. We have all experienced death and loss, and those are emotions that are very personal. There is also an interesting take on the “gender bend” concept, although I can’t say much more without giving away the film’s conclusion. It was unexpected, but fitting given the film’s plot.
If you enjoy independent horror films or a good ghost story in general, then Crybaby Bridge: A Louisiana Urban Legend is definitely one you will want to seek out in the future. We look forward to seeing what J.P. Willie will do next.