Austin Chronicle Fantastic Fest Review: Crumb Catcher
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 receipts.

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.

CRUMB CATCHER plays Friday the 13th At Brooklyn Horror Film Festival