Crumb Catcher

CHRIS SKOTCHDOPOLE (2023 RED)

A newlywed couple is held captive in a remote lake house by a maniacally optimistic inventor and his sour wife who are desperate to finance his dream project with a half-baked blackmail plot.


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Maggie Lovitt,

There is almost nothing worse than an unwelcome guest who overstays their welcome. Crumb Catcher manages to take the discomfort of such an occasion and make it a hundred times worse. All writer-director Chris Skotchdopole had to do was take an awkward new marriage, an off-the-rails waiter who wants to be an inventor, and a little sexual blackmail, and blend in the absolute horror of a home invasion to create one of the most uncomfortable and cringe-inducing films to screen this year.

Crumb Catcher opens like a Cooper Raiff film: endearing and a little cynical. Leah (Ella Rae Peck) and Shane (Rigo Garay) pose for their wedding photographer, struggling to conjure up the emotions of a couple about to embark on their happily ever after. The photographer goads them with questions, trying to inspire them to smile and laugh and act like they’re in love for the money shot, and it’s through these stiff, stilted answers that Skotchdopole introduces the first sign of trouble in their whirlwind romance. Leah works for the publishing house that is set to publish Shane’s novel, which is based on his absent-from-the-wedding father, and it’s clearly driven a wedge between them that Leah is oblivious to.
With the first few scenes of the film, it’s nearly impossible to discern what direction Crumb Catcher is headed. There’s tension between the couple, a hint of underlying money troubles, and a taste for liquor, but beyond that, it feels like a slice-of-life drama, not a home invasion thriller. At least, that is right up until the moment John (John Speredakos) steps into the picture. After a wedding cake mix-up during their wedding that neither Leah nor Shane seem entirely bothered about, John makes it his life’s mission to make it right—for his own, psychotic reasons. He tracks them down to the remote house that Leah’s editor has gifted to them for their honeymoon, strong-arms his way inside with his partner-in-crime Rose (Lorraine Ferris), and turns their honeymoon into all-out hell.

What’s worse than a home invasion? A boundary-crossing salesman trying to bully $50,000 out of the homeowner’s bank account to bankroll their useless invention: The Crumb Catcher. John’s sales pitch almost rivals some of the more anxiety-inducing scenes in The Menu, complete with a dinner from hell and a madman with a gun.

Skotchdopole’s script is incredibly clever with the way it drops breadcrumb clues about the characters, but sometimes the breadcrumbs lead to questions, rather than answers. There are plenty of allusions to the subject of Shane’s book and hints at why Leah didn’t invite his father to their wedding, but they’re vague and left entirely unanswered. While Peck and Garay are stupendous actors who play off each other quite nicely, the script frames their relationship as cold and ill-matched romantically. This narrative choice makes it difficult to sympathize with either of them or even root for their survival—which also, ultimately, aids in making the film a wholly uncomfortable experience from start to bitter finish

Aside from plot decisions that will leave audiences screaming at the characters to “LOCK THE DOOR!” there are other issues with the script that might leave them unsettled for all of the wrong reasons. Crumb Catcher leaves it rather ambiguous as to whether or not Shane was coerced into the situation that provided Rose with ample blackmail to leverage against the newlyweds. Shane seems remorseful for it, as though he sought out Rose on his wedding night, but at the same time he appears wasted in the video—and since Rose was the bartender, it seems to suggest he was actually assaulted, which the film never addresses. If it had, perhaps it would’ve given both Shane and Leah stronger motivations in the final act, rather than delivering a rather flat reveal.

With a runtime of around ninety-eight minutes, Crumb Catcher doesn’t have a lot of time to develop its characters beyond the bare necessities. John is a cartoonishly frantic and deranged man, who seems entirely detached from reality, while Rose is just his Vanna White in a red dress, whose motives are largely unknown to the audience. There are whispers of a backstory, but they’re hidden behind closed doors, and never given the chance to mature beyond being bullied and browbeaten by John.

Despite its nearly fatal flaws, Crumb Catcher is an insanely impressive directorial feature debut for Skotchdopole. It’s funny, bizarre, uncomfortable, and an absolute cringe-fest for all the best reasons. Skotchdopole has secured himself as a writer-director to keep an eye on, as he continues to refine his skill and explore the depths of depravity with a clever, humorous voice.

The Moveable Fest

Stephen Saito, Sept 26, 2023

can’t believe my mother talked me into this wedding,” Leah (Ella Rae Peck) says, driving the unhappiest “Just Married” car you’ve ever seen in “Crumb Catcher.” Her new husband Shane (Rigo Garay) says they should’ve just eloped, with director Chris Skotchdopole showing little of their nuptials, but enough of their wedding photo shoot to know it did not go well as the photographer snaps pictures that make it seem as if they were confronted by a firing squad, unaware of what direction fire is coming from when he peppers them with questions about how they met while Leah’s mom swings by to remind that for all the presents they receive, she’s been making a list of the thank you notes they’ll have to write.

There’s nothing romantic about the occasion and – it turns out – not so much about Leah and Shane’s relationship in general when as much as he may describe their meet cute in rosy terms, it becomes obvious that theirs is a marriage of convenience as much as anything else when they met at a company party and she works for a publisher and he’s an author, needing her help as much as boosting her career prospects when he’s on the cusp of a cultural breakthrough with his debut novel. The fact that their honeymoon is held at the executive editor’s woodsy retreat in upstate New York may seem to be a generous gift at first, but an increasingly apparent reflection of what the union is actually all about.

It isn’t just their work that follows them home when the shaky foundation for their new life together is further challenged by the creepy appearance at the front door of their hideaway of John Spinelli (John Speredakos), a sleazy caterer from their wedding they thought they left in the rear view of not for their misplaced wedding cake. It is here where the gloriously delirious camerawork of cinematographer Adam Carboni starts to take over as Leah and Shane have to wonder what the hell is going on, unable to stop John from letting himself in and increasingly feeling prohibited from kicking him out when it seems like he might have some dirt on them. There’s at least one dumb waiter on display, if not two when Carboni puts the camera on a tilt-a-whirl when listening to Spinelli’s pitch about an invention that he hopes the two will consider funding or at least give him some healthy feedback on over dinner, and the prospects of either the product or the captive couple going anywhere is next to nil.

The same can’t be said of Skotchdopole in his feature debut, showing real verve in the driver’s seat well before the film culminates in a wild white knuckle car chase. Although “Crumb Catcher” may be guilty of exhausting ways to keep Leah and Shane from deciding that they’d rather face the music than their tiresome guest for a second longer, the script from Skotchdopole, Garay and genre legend Larry Fessenden is savvy enough in its set up to create a fascinating collection of mitigating circumstances that it never dares to spell out when neither Leah or Shane would cop to them as their own rules of engagement, but between their professional/personal entanglements and the socioeconomic backgrounds that make them an ideal partnership in a woke world, the film has provocative ideas about modern romance and personal worth that carry it through the patches where it starts to strain plausibility and makes it feel all too real. While one may wonder how much love there actually is between the newlyweds in “Crumb Catcher,” there’s plenty to fall head over heels for in the satisfying thriller.

horrorobsessive

Brendan Jesus, Sept 27, 2023

Have you ever sat down to write a review, but as you sit down your stomach starts to rumble? Naturally, you’d get up and go grab a bag of plain saltine crackers. You sit back down and chow down on half the sleeve of crackers. Ahh, time to write. That’s when you notice your laptop is surrounded by crumbs from all of the crackers! You could move your laptop and take all of that time away from your writing to clean up the table. But that takes so much time away from your writing! If that scenario sounds all too familiar to you well then tell you about a revolutionary product…

Crumb Catcher is the directorial feature debut for writer/director Chris Skotchdopole, with a story by Chris Skotchdopole, Rigo Garay, and my idol Larry Fessenden. Skotchdopole has crafted an odd, yet ultimately charming, psychological horror film that wears its heart on its sleeve. The description of the film lays out the basic plot for you, but it really doesn’t do the film justice. Crumb Catcher is absurdly macabre and doesn’t stop telling a twisting tale of intrigue until the credits roll. Anything that Larry Fessenden is in or is a part of in any way will always appeal to me, and that continues to be solidified with Crumb Catcher.

On the day that changes their lives forever, publisher Leah (Ella Rae Peck) and writer Shane (Rigo Garay) tie the knot; the release of Shane’s book, a self-reflecting collection of stories from his childhood, is on the horizon. Soon after arriving at a lake house for their honeymoon, they are quickly interrupted by John (John Speredakos), one of the servers from their wedding reception. His thinly veiled excuse for his arrival breaks when John reveals he wants to pitch an invention to Shane, though the reasons for the pitch are soon brought to light. John’s wife Rose (Lorraine Farris) is brought in to assist with the pitch, and then the night gets… messy.

See from that description you’re probably thinking, “Oh yeah I know what direction that film is going to take!”. I can assure you you’re wrong. Never in your wildest dreams could you guess what this film is going to throw at you. While Crumb Catcher was initially an extremely enjoyable film, after learning the film is Chris Skotchdopole’s feature debut I looked at it in a whole new light. The tonal shifts in Crumb Catcher completely caught me off guard for the right reasons. For a filmmaker with four or five films in their filmography, the ability to tell a story with so many different tones while keeping the auteur’s style is challenging enough. But when your debut feature effortlessly changes tone and you still keep a consistent and incredibly strong style—now that is quite a feat. My first takeaway from this film is that I need to see more from Chris Skotchdopole, and I won’t rest until I do.

The relationship between Leah and Shane is rocky at best, even for a couple on their wedding day. Ella Rae Peck is phenomenal and she really steals every scene she is in, and the chemistry, good and bad, she creates with Rigo Garay is phenomenal. Rigo Garay was fantastic in The Leech, and he also had a great four-episode arc in Law & Order, so I was excited to see him in another project. The way he feeds off his scene partners is like a charismatic parasite. Garay takes what his scene partners give him and runs a marathon with it. While the scenes between Peck and Garay carry the emotional weight of the film, it’s when Garay and John Speredakos interact that the film takes a whole different angle.

Speredakos brings an awkward charm and intensity to the film and eats up the scenery every chance he gets. At the wedding venue he seems like an idiosyncratic throwaway character, but when he injects himself into their lives and makes himself the problem, this is where he really takes off. Thinking back on the film, I’m not even sure if he blinked once. He’s the living embodiment of a basement invented on day eight of a cocaine bender. Where the beauty of his performance really lies is when the film turns from quirky dark comedy to a tense psychological and emotional thriller. John Speredakos has proven himself time and time again to be an incredible actor; from films like The Mind’s Eye to I Sell The Dead, Speredakos leaves it all on the table and takes no prisoners. It just so happens that if you want to see Ella Rae Peck, Rigo Garay, and John Speredakos together again on screen you can catch them in the new Larry Fessenden film Blackout.

I almost forgot one important thing. The editing of Crumb Catcher is solid throughout the entire film, though one scene particularly struck me hard. Trying to go about this as unspoilery as possible, there is a scene towards the end with Shane’s car and the editing in the scene is superb. There’s a state of mind that is presented and intermittently thrown into the edit when necessary, all while some other crazy stuff is going on. Some people say the best editing is when you don’t recognize the editing, but I think the best editing is when a montage of shots perfectly puts you in the shoes of the characters. The editing in this scene made me feel like I was in that exact scenario with them and I was awestruck at how impressive it was.

With an incredibly tight script and excellent directing, Crumb Catcher takes the viewer through a weird and intense journey. It may seem like the crumb catcher idea is a wacky idea Chris Skotchdopole, or Garay or Fessenden, had while writing the film, but there’s much more to it than that. It might be hard to look past the goofy invention and that’s fair. All I ask is that you take a step back and think about it. The literal inclusion of the invention is John’s ticket into their lives, and the metaphorical inclusion is Shane’s ticket into John and Rose’s life. Crumb Catcher is one hell of a ride, and I’m glad I took it. This is a special film and it deserves to be seen by as many people as possible. Bingo bongo up the Congo!

regerebert.com

Katie Rife, Oct 5, 2023

In a sort of passing of the independent torch, festival alums Larry Fessenden and Jim Cummings served as shepherds at Fantastic Fest 2023 for feature debuts that distinguished themselves in different ways. “The Last Stop in Yuma County,” from writer/director Francis Galluppi, takes the route of putting familiar-to-this-crowd faces—Richard Brake, “The House of the Devil’s” Jocelin Donahue, Cummings—and pairing them with a strong screenplay and a little bit of money spent in the right places. Galluppi’s film evokes the brainless criminals and darkly humorous repartee of early Coen Brothers, combining them with sunbaked Western visuals and a hot potato of a heist plot for a crowd-pleasing crime comedy that could really take off with the right distributor.

Fessenden, meanwhile, developed the story for “Crumb Catcher” with director Chris Skotchdopole, who also makes his first feature with this audacious genre-bender. Again, the screenplay is the real star here. And as a fan of wild swings and tonal gambits (see also: last year’s “Resurrection” with Rebecca Hall and Tim Roth), I couldn’t help but be charmed by the movie’s bizarre premise. Anchored by John Speredakos’ volatile performance as a nightmare version of the annoying guy who won’t leave a party, “Crumb Catcher” crosses “Funny Games” with an extended “I Think You Should Leave” sketch, mixing the violent undertones of a home-invasion thriller with cringe comedy for an unpredictable ride.

Austin Chronicle

Richard Whittaker Oct 11, 2023

Relationship drama takes a twisted turn into true insight

As they pose for wedding photos, it should be the happiest of all days for Shane (Rigo Garay) and Leah (Ella Rae Peck). But the opening moments of warped character study Crumb Catcher show there’s turmoil behind the place settings and gift reciepts.

There’s a friction, subtly ramped up by quick cuts and unexpected camera angles that disorient the audience and place them in Shane’s shoes. Which are also Leah’s shoes. A couples counselor might look at their relationship and quietly write “enmeshment” on a pad, because the lines between the two are so blurred – and not in a healthy way. Shane is not just Leah’s husband, but also her client: He’s a rising young author who has cannibalized his past for his works, while she’s his agent. Professional and personal vested interests have become so intertwined that Shane fears he has forgotten who he is and instead has become caught up in a mixture of paranoia and self-doubt.

This creeping suspicion colors one of the most significant and tender scenes in Crumb Catcher, in which Shane roleplays as a rough and tumble street Lothario, taunting Leah about her absent husband and how he can show her a real good time.

It’s both erotic and romantic, but in a fashion reminiscent of mid-period Steven Soderbergh or John Cassavetes: laden with tragic and poignant undertones. What makes moments like these most unsettling is that it’s all coming from Shane and his insecurities, Leah is, to him and to the audience, a little inscrutable. So it’s up to Shane, with his baggage about his family (as expressed in a shattered relationship with his father that is constantly alluded to), his worth as a writer, his implied working class roots, and his race (constantly being the only Latino in the room) to fill that space.

The script, credited to Garay, first-time feature director Chris Skotchdopole, and indie legend Larry Fessenden, begins as a character study of utter self doubt, a relationship drama that is both crisp and contemporary. That’s why its second act switch into dark farce can be so jarring, as the grinning, sweating, desperate face of caterer John Spinelli (John Speredakos) appears at the door of their borrowed honeymoon retreat, claiming he’s found the wedding cake they left at the venue.

Of course, cake is not really on anyone’s mind, especially Leah who constantly protests that she never really wanted a big wedding anyway. But John’s there, with his frazzled and short-tempered wife, Rose (Lorraine Farris), and there are very good, if self-serving, reasons why Shane isn’t interested in letting them leave early, even if John keeps trying to get them to invest in his harebrained get-rich-quick scheme: the titular crumb catcher.

Speredakos and Farris seem so completely at odds, performance-wise, with both Garay and Peck, that it’s almost hard to see where they’re supposed to mesh. But that’s the point and the source of a sense of creeping menace that’s as disturbing as the accelerating threats from the uninvited guests. The delicacy and diplomacy of Shane and Leah is contrasted with the sideshow theatrics of John and Rose. Speredakos is clearly channeling the somewhat-self-aware desperation of the late, great Joe Spinell at his best, while Farris teeters through scenes like a steaming showgirl kicked out of the club.

Skotchdopole’s greatest success is in weaving these seemingly disparate threads together, to show the interconnectedness of Shane and John’s internal crises and showing how close to being saved each of them really is. As the night pinwheels from drama to farce to tragicomedy, his clear, cold, and yet compassionate eye finds strange harmony in their emotional imbalance.

UPI

Fred Topel, Sept 24, 2023

LOS ANGELES, Sept. 24 (UPI) — Crumb Catcher, which premiered at Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas, begins as a cringe comedy and becomes a truly suspenseful thriller. It is equally relentless at both.

Leah (Ella Rae Peck) and Shane (Rigo Garay) spend the day after their wedding at Leah’s editor’s remote, luxurious house. John (John Speredakos), a caterer from the hotel, brings them the top of their wedding cake for posterity.

John just won’t take the hint that he should leave and pressures the newlyweds to hear his business proposal. He’s also brought his wife, Rose (Lorraine Ferris) to help present The Crumb Catcher.

First of all, Leah and Shane don’t seem like a harmonious marriage in the first place. Even the story of how they met sounds hostile.

Leah is a publisher and has nurtured Shane to write an autobiographical book. Now, Shane is having second thoughts about publishing it.

Regardless, John seriously lacks social skills to interrupt a couple on night two of their marriage and keep sticking around for chit chat. This is a very familiar situation where polite hints just don’t work, but then blunt “get out now” doesn’t either.

Shane thinks maybe if they sit through the presentation it’ll be enough to satisfy them, but of course it never is. The invention is an absurdly bulky device that helps diners sweep up their own crumbs so their dinner conversation won’t be interrupted by waiters.

It would be tragicomic if it were just about John’s deluded hope that this unnecessary invention is his ticket to prosperity. But, John and Rose have more nefarious intentions too.

When these screwups try to be master criminals, it’s even more frustrating because their criminal plan is as misguided as The Crumb Catcher. By then, their escalating desperation becomes dangerous.

Crumb Catcher generates all this uncomfortable comedy and taut suspense with four people in a single location.

Leah and Shane probably didn’t need a crisis to break the tensions in their relationship. Resentments on night two are not a good sign, and other big wedding slights are revealed during the night.

When it comes to the book, Shane feels it’s his story so he reserves the right to pull it, contracts notwithstanding. Except Leah got it published so it really is not just him anymore.

But, John and Rose would be insufferable even to the perfect couple.

Crumb Catcher is a movie for anyone who has met people they just can’t get rid of. Even if a viewer has been fortunate not to experience that, the situation is relatable enough to warrant sympathy pangs.


Dread Central

Mary Beth McAndrews 10/18/2023

“It was a sandbox of love”: ‘Crumb Catcher’ Director Chris Skotchdopole On His Tense Directorial Debut [Fantastic Fest 2023]

Chris Skotchdopole’s feature film debut Crumb Catcher is best described as Uncomfortable with a capital U. The film is a fascinating look at the lengths we’ll go to make sure we’re adhering to the status quo, regardless of the consequences. Think Speak No Evil, but with fewer children and more really awkward couples who are willing to blackmail you for a chance to pitch their business proposition.

Dread Central caught up with Skotchdopole at Fantastic Fest where Crumb Catcher had its world premiere to chat about filming this over five different shoots, creating the film’s tension, and how he designed the titular invention.

Dread Central: You’ve done so much cool work for Glass Eye Pix before Crumb Catcher, and you were a cinematographer on Depraved. How did you get involved with them before you made Crumb Catcher?

Chris Skotchdopole: I met Larry because my roommate’s boyfriend was working there. I remember I helped them find a location for something that never ended up coming out.


RIGO GARAY, “Shane” – Rigo Garay is a writer, director and actor born and raised in Long Island, NY. He has worked as miscellaneous crew on numerous Glass Eye productions. In 2016, Rigo officially joined the full-time GEP team as the Office Coordinator and has been there since. His directorial debut short SIZE UP, is currently in post production.

ELLA RAE PECK, “Leah” – She is well known for her portrayal of Lola Rhodes on The CW’s teen drama series Gossip Girl, she is also recognized for her role as Mia Bowers on NBC’s Deception. She spent her early years in Minneapolis, Minnesota and New York. She made her screen acting debut in a 2006 short film titled Lilly in the Woods and went on to play the role of Emma in the 2007 feature Freezer Burn.

JOHN SPEREDAKOS, “John” – John Speredakos was born on August 11, 1962 in New York City, New York, USA. He is an actor, known for The Mind’s Eye (2015), Wendigo (2001) and Inside Man (2006).

LORRAINE FARRIS, “Rose” – Lorraine Farris is known for Blue Bloods, Follow Her, The Slap, Natural Born Killers and more.


CHRIS SKOTCHDOPOLE, writer/director – A writer, director and producer living in New York City. He works with Glass Eye Pix, an independent production outfit lead by director Larry Fessenden. Skotchdopole most recently served as co-producer on Jenn Wexler’s punk thriller, THE RANGER, starring Chloe Levine and Jeremy Holm. Previously, he worked as associate producer on Mickey Keating’s DARLING (SXSW) and Rob Mockler’s film LIKE ME (SXSW), starring Addison Timlin. He has produced several music videos and shorts for Glass Eye, including James Siewert’s THE PAST INSIDE THE PRESENT (Slamdance, Flordia Film Festival, Fantastic Fest). THE EGG AND THE HATCHET is his first short since graduating from the School of Visual Arts in 2010. Chris is currently developing a feature with Larry Fessenden.

BRIAN DEVINE, Producer – Prior to building Gigantic Studios, Brian Devine worked for Stanley M. Brooks, a producer of movies and television. He then partnered with writer-director Steven Lisberger (TRON). Lisberger and Devine developed projects for Warner Brothers, Sony/Columbia, Francis Coppola, & Kushner-Locke. Brian has produced several short and feature-length narrative and documentary films that have been in film festivals across the world including Cannes, Sundance, SXSW, Tribeca, Toronto, Warsaw, Zurich, & more. His recent credits include Frank SerpicoNight SchoolHeartworn Highways Revisited, We’re Still HereJohnny Cash’s Bitter Tears Revisited, & Sunday. Brian is currently writing his first feature-length script.

LARRY FESSENDEN, Producer – Larry Fessenden is an actor and producer and the director of the art-horror movies DEPRAVED, NO TELLING, HABIT, WENDIGO and THE LAST WINTER, as well as he TV films SKIN AND BONES and BENEATH. He has produced dozens of movies including THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL, STAKE LAND, WENDY AND LUCY and THE COMEDY and acted in TV and Film including KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON, THE DEAD DON’T DIE, LOUIE, THE STRAIN, BROKEN FLOWERS and THE BRAVE ONE. Fessenden has operated the production shingle Glass Eye Pix since 1985 with the mission of supporting individual voices in the arts.

JAMES W. SKOTCHDOPOLE, producer – James W. Skotchdopole is an Academy Award winning and Emmy nominated American film producer. Skotchdopole won a 2015 Best Picture Academy Award® for his work producing Alejandro González Iñárritu’s highly acclaimed Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance). Skotchdopole’s work on the film also resulted in an Independent Spirit Best Picture Award, a DGA Award, a PGA Award and a BAFTA Best Film Award nomination. He again collaborated with Iñárritu and produced the 2016 multiple Oscar and Bafta-winning feature The Revenant, which earned Iñárritu an Oscar for Best Director and earned Leonardo DiCaprio a long-awaited Oscar’s Best Actor Award.

BONNIE TIMMERMANN, producer – An American casting director and producer for film, television and theatre, perhaps best known for her work on the TV series Miami Vice and for her ongoing collaboration with the show’s creator, Michael Mann.

CHADD HARBOLD, producer – A filmmaker and producer known for PRIVATE PROPERTY, LINOLEUM, DEPRAVED, MOST BEAUTIFUL ISLAND and more.

ADAM CARBONI, producer – Adam is a U.S.-based cinematographer who has lent his eye to stories across 5 continents and collaborated with many insanely talented artists. Drawing upon his roots in documentary filmmaking, he tries to bring a sense of humanity to all the projects he shoots. Adam’s narrative movies have screened at Tribeca, Cannes, Fantastic Fest, and many other festivals worldwide. The latest feature-length documentary he filmed, Lions of Mesopotamia, is premiering at SXSW 2024. His extensive advertising work can usually be sampled on TV at your local sports bar.