The existence of 2018’s atrocious Slender Man means John Ross’ Grimcutty would have to self-implode at an epic level to be the worst Creepypasta movie yet. Hulu’s meme horror hysteria avoids a fate worse than Slender Man, but that doesn’t mean Ross eviscerates his wet-noodle competition. Grimcutty relies on the nightmarish design of its lumbering practical entity, which weakens the more that monster actor Joel Ezra Hebner wobbles around in the top-heavy costume. Ross’ screenplay features exciting starting points for obsessive online conversations between parents and children, only for the execution to squander any urban legend intrigue with an unfortunate incompleteness that’s anything but a tightly wound boogeyman romp.
Grimcutty’s events revolve around the Chaudhry family, only one household affected by a town-wide internet challenge called “Grimcutty.” Parents Leah (Shannyn Sossamon) and Amir (Usman Ally) interrogate youngest Kamran (Callan Farris) and older sister Asha (Sara Wolfkind) about neighborhood classmates cutting themselves under Grimcutty’s orders. Asha’s too busy recording ASMR videos to even know what her out-of-touch mother and father are babbling about—until Grimcutty appears in the Chaudhry’s kitchen. Amir institutes a “Detox Box,” where electronic devices stay locked away from usage to protect his offspring, but Asha rebels because the more that Amir and Leah fear Grimcutty’s legend, the more Asha confronts the knife-waving demon. To fight a viral meme, she’ll need WiFi access.
Ross keys into a novel Creepypasta setup that places the onus on overprotective parents shielding their children from online forces that they themselves instigate. Grimcutty feeds off Leah and Amir’s angry outbursts while Asha and Kamran are punished for hearsay outside of their control. The generational divide between Amir’s “No Devices” policy as a socialization motivator and Asha’s assurances that online communities can lead to affirming explorations is cleverly exploited for its frustrated misunderstandings. As is often the case, Grimcutty spotlights the societal fear-mongering that spreads between parties without proper communication, while younger individuals pay the price for their elder’s unfounded paranoias.
Unfortunately, Ross’ sharper beginnings are dulled like Grimcutty’s face is sandpaper, smoothing what should be razor-sharp edges whenever the red-eyed reimagining of Ryuk from Death Note appears. Cinematographer Bridger Nielson runs on pure nightmare fuel when introducing Grimcutty, enveloping the gangly black-covered beast in shadows only for the jagged-grinned mongrel to spring forward. Hebner’s saunter and gate benefits the imposition, as Grimcutty pours into once empty doorways like the Crooked Man or the Tall Man. Ross honors monster movie purity by unleashing his creature without hesitation or restraint—but then it’s all downhill. Grimcutty devolves from master frightener to Halloween prop by the time Asha stages her last stand, as Hebner’s rubbery facemask and awkward mobility become more apparent with every encounter. There’s admirable confidence when considering how fearless Grimcutty is about spotlighting its villain—if only the execution stayed as rocksteady as the first few minutes.
As Asha’s escapes from the always-lurking Grimcutty intensify, our engagement wavers. Grimcutty can only be seen by its immediate victims, which becomes a cheap device to make Asha look psychologically unwell. Meanwhile, Leah and Amir jump to countless conclusions while the entire town descends into mania that doesn’t often match narrative logic. Ties to unstable mommy bloggers, spur-of-the-moment friendships and some ridiculous leaps in connective storytelling are the glue that never binds Grimcutty, which often seems unsure of how to sustain Asha’s battles. Where Mercy Black feeds on childlike imagination or Always Watching: A Marble Hornets Story goes all-in on Slender Man scares, Grimcutty becomes a sillier excuse for Creepypasta filmmaking that loses focus beyond the puppet-looking practical creature it loves shoving on screen.
It’s a shame, because Grimcutty starts like another under-the-radar horror hit about adolescent helplessness. Shades of Z are a complimentary touch, as Wolfkind grapples with every child’s worst fears when their parents cannot recognize reason. There’s so much to chew on as Sossamon and Ally bear the natural imperfections of parenthood aloud until Grimcutty loses its creepiest flavors. Too much of a good thing becomes John Ross’ curse, as Grimcutty renders his demonic scowl impotent after the umpteenth close-up. Stick your landing, not your opening—Grimcutty works itself backward into a forgettable cyber-folktale fate.
Director: John William Ross
Writer: John William Ross
Starring: Sara Wolfkind, Usman Ally, Shannyn Sossamon, Callan Farris, Alona Tal, Kayden Koshalev, Joel Ezra Hebner
Release Date: October 10, 2022 (Hulu)
Matt Donato is a Los Angeles-based film critic currently published on SlashFilm, Fangoria, Bloody Disgusting, and anywhere else he’s allowed to spread the gospel of Demon Wind. He is also a member of the Hollywood Critics Association. Definitely don’t feed him after midnight.