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Photo: ‘Cracow Monsters’
There’s simply always a time and a place for indulging ourselves in the world of terror within fictional media, and it is through this indulgence that we realize that there are sub-genres within the entire genre of horror; which causes us as audience members to expand our Cinematic palate to see all that we can enjoy in this ultimately creative genre. Of course, this also goes for a multitude of other genres as well; showcasing that these wonderful visual stories span far and wide in what they can be.
But, what if I told you that two sub-genres from two rather different genres merged to create one big story? Something that creates both fear and emotional curiosity as the story mixes horror and fantasy? Well, I can say here and now that if that’s what you’re looking for, you are in luck with the gift of the recent Polish Netflix original series ‘Cracow Monsters’ (Krakowskie potwory); a paranormal horror coupled with urban fantasy.
‘Cracow Monsters’ – Rather Haunting Academia
‘Cracow Monsters’ follows a fantastically enticing story. Haunted by her past, a young woman, Alex (played by Barbara Liberek), one day joins a group of gifted students who are all conjured and gathered by a mysterious professor. Initially, Alex is rather hesitant to join the group, but when a demon begins to follow her, she then changes her mind. Together, Alex and the group of students go to investigate paranormal activity–and fight demons.
The plot of ‘Cracow Monsters’ sparked a bit of curiosity in me, and I’m truly always in to watch any type of media involving the dark academia and the paranormal, so I went in expecting to fully savor this series. And, that I wholly did—way more than I expected.
Despite the writing of the series making it all-around feel a tad bit slow, the story had a lot of substance to it. If you’re a huge fan of the 90s series ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ and/or the 2005 series ‘Supernatural’, then you’ll find ‘Cracow Monsters’ to be quite entertaining. It’s got all the tragic backstories and a disquietude atmosphere that will have you be reminiscent of Buffy’s (eerily not-so-quiet) town of Sunnydale, or the variety of dreadful demonic and paranormal situations the Winchester brothers would get themselves into.
All of the characters, especially Alex, have a variety of dimensions and relatability to them—largely expressing that glorious angst. It’s clear from these aspects that there was a lot of love and care put into the series, and that everyone on the production team (both big and small) wanted to create a fictional universe that audiences could develop themselves into, and possibly feel as though maybe they’re in that world with the characters as well.
There’s so much lore hidden within ‘Cracow Monsters’ that’s dying to be uncovered; and with the rate that the show is going thus far, there’s truly a sense that we certainly have a lot more to unpack. The ending of the eighth episode is quite unexplainable if I had to put it into words. It’s one of those endings where I encourage you to watch it yourself and develop an interpretation of your own. With all the paranormal thrills and fondness of classic fanciful fables, the story has unfolded itself to be something that I haven’t experienced in a long time.
All For The Love of Monsters
Coupled with the thrilling lore, the physical depiction of the monsters is quite frightening; having you be more freaked out by them than the Pale Man from Guillermo del Toro’s ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’. It was intriguing to me how the lore tied in with these horrifying monsters; ultimately giving their outward appearance a purpose rather than attempting to give audiences a cheap scare. On top of this, the influence of urban fantasy fables shines through these monsters’ designs in the best way as well.
The cinematography of ‘Cracow Monsters’ is also something to be admired as well. The blue and murky tints are appropriate uses of color; fitting perfectly as though it’s the final puzzle piece to complete the overall unsettling atmosphere of the series. I’m not lying when I say that I’m incredibly amazed by how the cinematographer, Ziv Berkovich, executed his vision by using such out-there cool and rainy tones that fit in with the story; along with a great number of close-ups on nearly everybody.
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It’s with both of the elements of the monster design and the choice of how the cinematography was utilized that my previously mentioned statement that nearly every element had a purpose to express the love and care that went into this series. Based on seeing a few of the Instagram profiles of the cast and crew, such as the lead actress Liberek’s, everyone seems to feel proud of what they’ve created—as they entirely should be. And, it’s with that said that it’s inspiring to me and encourages me to be proud of the personal work that I create as well; with the hope that my love and care will shine through just as much as the cast and crew did.
A Nightmare With A Potential End In Sight
As I mentioned before, the season finale of season one of ‘Cracow Monsters’ has so much substance and mystery to it that an individual interpretation is the best way to go about understanding it. If you have already finished the series, there are a few articles that will explain the ending; but I find that your version of how you saw the ending is the most horrifying way. There are so many things in this world that go beyond our own comprehension, and this conclusion of the first season implements that unsettling feeling.
Being a series that hasn’t gotten as much promotion as it deserves—along with it being something you have to look up rather than see on the front homepage—the Netflix original is worthy of a mountain-high of appreciation and adoration. I truly loved this series more than anything, and I’m oh-so-much yearning for the second season to release as soon as possible.
By Leah Donato
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