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Film / Crime Wave

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Crime Wave is a 1985 Canadian independent comedy film directed by John Paizs.

This very odd movie stars Eva Kovacs as Kim, a 13-year old girl in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Kim is excited when Steven Penny (John Paizs) a would-be screenwriter of "color crime movies", moves into the apartment over the garage. Kim imagines that Steven is a Hollywood big shot, but Steven is an utterly incompetent writer. He keeps coming up with various ridiculous scenarios for his movie Crime Wave, with idiotic beginnings and absurd endings, but can't come up with a middle.

Kim develops a schoolgirl crush on Steven and encourages him, but Steven still can't come up with a middle for his movie. Steven is at his lowest ebb when Kim finds a classified ad offering screenwriting help, placed by one C. Jolly. Steven joyfully goes off to meet Mr. Jolly, but it turns out that Jolly has something up his sleeve.

The above description doesn't really convey how weird this movie is, with the hammy acting, the rictus grins, the nonsensical plot, the dime-store special effects...if Ed Wood and David Lynch had ever made a movie together, Crime Wave would be that movie.

Not to be confused with Crimewave (one word), a Sam Raimi film that was also released in 1985.


  • Amazing Freaking Grace: The version of Crime Wave that finally makes Steven a star has him reciting the lyrics to "Amazing Grace" as Jesus appears, right before Steven kills himself.
  • Brand X: One of Steven's rejected Crime Wave drafts has the protagonist couple getting rich selling "Allway", which obviously is supposed to be glorified pyramid scheme Amway.
  • Canon Welding: In what may be an Imagine Spot or may be a Dream Sequence or may be Through the Eyes of Madness, one scene has Steven hanging out with all the fictional characters from his widely different drafts of Crime Wave.
  • Catapult Nightmare: And apparently also Psychic Link, as Kim catapults out of bed with her nightmare of C. Jolly trying to kill Steven, which is exactly what's happening as Jolly is trying to kill Steven.
  • Diabolus ex Machina: Steven and Jolly are supposed to meet in the prairie town of Sails. They can't, because when they get there Sails has been closed off by the CDC, apparently because some sort of plague or biotoxin is in town. This has nothing to do with anything other than to provide a reason why Steven and Jolly meet in a Kansas cornfield instead of in the town.
  • Fanservice: In the draft of Crime Wave that involves selling "Allway" products, the husband and wife are discussing their scheme. The wife is topless for no reason at all.
  • Insistent Terminology: Per Kim, Steven doesn't write movies. He doesn't write crime movies. No, he writes "color crime movies".
  • Laughing Mad: C. Jolly's insane cackle when he finally meets Steven.
  • Letting the Air out of the Band: The town of Sails has been fenced off by the Center for Disease Control, so Steven starts walking through the corn fields, detouring around the road block. An energetic "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow" plays over the soundtrack. But it's ten miles, and as it grows dark and Steven starts getting tired, the song slows down, coming to a cacophonous halt as he collapses.
  • Metafictional Title: "Crime Wave" is the title of the screenplay Steven is attempting to write.
  • Narrator: Kim narrates the story, and she pretty much has to, seeing that Steven never talks. Several of her scenes have her looking straight at the camera in a peculiar manner as she does.
  • Offscreen Crash: Steven's first draft for a Crime Wave movie ends with the Elvis impersonator crashing his car offscreen, flying through the air, and getting impaled on a telephone pole.
  • Punk in the Trunk: How C. Jolly is carrying the corpse of his latest victim around.
  • Retraux: The film wavers between ultra-low budget 1950s crime movies and ultra-low budget 1950s Instructional Films. But either way, the film is made in a deliberately crude, old-fashioned style, with artless lighting, hammy, wooden dialogue that was dubbed in post-production, and a score to match.
  • Running Gag: All of Steven's insane Crime Wave movies.
  • Serial Killer: C. Jolly likes to kill folks. He has a trussed-up victim in his hotel, and later he chucks the corpse in a trunk. And he is clearly about to kill Steven when he's run over by the couple in the truck.
  • Shout-Out: Steven shares a story of how he once borrowed a camera from the National Film Board of Canada, only for the camera to be destroyed in a car wreck, costing Steven $2000. (This is something that really happened to John Paizs.)
  • Show Within a Show: All Steven's ridiculous Crime Wave movies.
  • Strictly Formula: Steven only seems to come up with one kind of premise. Some groups of people are engaged in some unusual activity—celebrity impersonators, direct marketing sales, self-help books. A hero "from The North!" shows up and beats them all at it, but the hero commits some sort of ghastly violence in the process. Then the cops show up, and the hero/heroes die violent deaths. And he can't even find a middle for his formula.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: The oddly specific last two lines of the cheery theme song that closes the film.
    "Steven is almost happy
    As sane as you or I."
  • Swarm of Rats: How depressed is Steven? When Kim and her parents enter the apartment, Steven is lying on the bed, apparently starving himself to death, while rats swarm around the place eating the food Kim left for him, and eating bits of Steven too.
  • The Unsmile: C. Jolly's terrifying rictus grin.
  • The Voiceless: Steven never speaks. One scene has has Steven staring off into space. After he stares at nothing for a while, Kim says "This is where Steven had a crisis of faith."
  • Writer's Block: Steven has a bad case of it.