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Movie Review: College Finals Are a Real Nightmare in “CRAM”

Tuesday, March 21, 2023 | Reviews


Starring John DiMino, Brandon E.Burton, Rolando Chusan
Written and Directed by Abie Sidell
Terror Films

The absolute hellscape that is college can provide some of life’s scariest moments. For some, these years can be counted among the best of their lives. For others, feelings of anxiety, pressure, and fear are a constant. Whether attempting to impress a professor, procrastinating assignments, or simply trying to pass, sometimes the only option is to buckle down and get through it. Sometimes, you just gotta cram.

CRAM tells the story of Marc Lack (John DiMino), a college student who’s waited until the literal last minute to write the final paper he probably should have been working on all semester. After his friends refuse to help him, he finds himself stressed, hopeless, distracted, and dozing off in his college’s library. Upon waking he discovers the lights are out, his entire paper is missing, and he’s completely alone…or so he thinks.

The film, written and directed by Abie Sidell, feels a bit like a personal account of the stresses of academia. Perhaps it’s because, at one point or another, we’ve all found ourselves ill-prepared for an exam or unable to complete an assignment on time. The film showcases the nightmarish pressures of college extremely creatively, finding great success in an unpredictable score by Sydney Amanuel, Daniel Rudin, Sajda Waite, and Abie Sidell and beautiful cinematography by Felix Handte. The story seamlessly blends humor with horror and a touch of fantasy, forcing viewers to remind themselves, “It’s only a dream.” The dreamscape world of the library (and beyond) allows for some very well-executed scares—an impressive feat at a succinct (but appropriate) runtime of just under 45 minutes. Not quite a short, not quite a feature, the film tells exactly the story it intends to without dragging out details or answering too many questions.

DiMino, as Marc, is the perfect blend of likeable, relatable, and pitiable. His plight is one most have endured, yet it seems just when he begins to get it together, he’s once again distracted and pulled out of focus. In the end, his story’s outcome leaves viewers donning a satisfied, albeit creeped out, grin. Also worth mentioning is Brandon Burton as The Master of the Books. Without giving too much away, this living personification of academia is a clever manifestation of everything that’s terrifying and anxiety-inducing about the college years. His Shakespearean delivery is both sympathetic and chilling.

All in all, this film just works. It’s fun, spooky, visually appealing, and very satisfying. Don’t spend too much time trying to figure out precise details. The answers are there, but much like a real nightmare, it’s best to just go with it and try to survive. (And maybe learn something along the way.)

Ricky J. Duarte
Ricky is a writer, actor, singer, and the host of the "Rick or Treat Horrorcast" podcast. He lives in a super haunted apartment above a cemetery in New York City with his evil cat, Renfield, and the ghosts of reasons he moved to NYC in the first place., @RickOrTreatPod