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Crowskin synopsis

It is 1968. Bobby, a New Yorker in his early twenties, lives in a crumbling apartment with his best friend Scooby, a burnt out jazz musician. His father - a frail, racist academic called Randolph - has recently died in mysterious circumstances. In his will, Randolph left only a letter telling Bobby that he is not his biological son, but was stolen from an evil race of undersea monsters as a baby, in revenge for the murder of Randolph’s wife years earlier, and raised by Randolph as his own. Bobby is determined to find out the truth behind his dad’s paranoid ramblings, and follow up on his father’s one clue: Innsmouth, a Massachusetts seaport, and purportedly the place of Bobby’s real birth. With Scooby, his ex-girlfriend Nicole, and her current boyfriend Fred, Bobby journeys to the town to investigate the truth behind his father’s letter and death.

Image by Lewis Bush
“Where-the-fuck-is-the-doctor?” From Left: Pregnant Woman (Simon Ferdinand), Lydia (Saskia Roddick), Junior Doctor (Yann Allsopp) and Randolph (Julian Gyll-Murray).

In Innsmouth, they meet McCoy, a psychotic commando on ‘R’n’R’. He directs them to the local hotel, where in the middle of the night, Scooby is abducted and secretly murdered by the hoteliers in a nightmarish sequence. The following morning Fred has also gone missing, and the Hoteliers feed Scooby’s corpse to the unwitting heroes as breakfast. Over the course of the meal Bobby and Nicole meet Hunter S. Thompson, who is also staying in the hotel. He claims to be researching an undercover CIA operation in the town to capture ‘Mother Hydra’, the mind-controlling fish monster who lives in the harbour. Nicole finds the story ludicrous, but Bobby is intrigued to hear that Mother Hydra can control people’s dreams, since this would explain many recurring nightmares that Bobby has experienced, including one in which he pilots the Enola Gay over Hiroshima. Thompson tells Bobby and Nicole about the annual religious festival held by the townspeople in honour of ‘Mother Hydra’ and the pair head out to local Church to investigate, hoping that it will provide clues to the death of Randolph.

When the service begins, they meet the town’s hideous fishy residents and Bobby’s biological father, Robert Olmstead, narrator of Lovecraft’s Shadow Over Innsmouth, now a degenerate fishman and the leader of the Innsmouth cult. It is revealed that Fred has been taken prisoner by the cult and Bobby is offered the chance to sacrifice Fred in the name of Mother Hydra. He refuses and is captured. Nicole escapes, and Fred is eaten alive by the Deep Ones. Elsewhere, McCoy phones Richard Nixon to discuss Mother Hydra. Nixon originally intended for McCoy to capture the squid and harness its mind-controlling powers for the benefit of the Government, but the logistics of capturing her are too complex. McCoy persuades him to transfer his hopes for mind-control onto the MK-Ultra Programme, and order an air strike to destroy the monster and her followers because they become a liability. In prison Robert Olmstead expresses his disappointment that Bobby didn’t kill Fred. He tries to convince Bobby that they are father and son. The pair argue over this point and Mr O reveals that Scooby was killed, and that Bobby too is threatened with sacrifice if he does not agree to a new life as Mr O’s heir. Bobby, nauseated by the death of his best friend, refuses to acknowledge either Mr O’s paternity or the role of heir.

Image by Lewis Bush
Storytime! With Buck (Tim Franklin) and Mary Beth (Claire Johnson).

Outside, Nicole kills a Deep One and uses its head as a disguise; she storms into the prison and frees Bobby. Bobby informs Nicole of the death of Scoob and Fred, but there is little time for the news to sink in as Nixon’s air strike begins. Nicole and Bobby run across town in an attempt to escape; fighting breaks out and McCoy is attacked by the Innsmouth folk. Bobby and Nicole run into the ensuing skirmish, and a confused McCoy stabs Nicole in the dark. She dies. A distraught Bobby turns on McCoy, who is in turn murdered by a Deep One. Bobby carries away Nicole’s body. Having buried her he encounters Mr. O, wounded on the ground. Mr O begs Bobby to help him. There is a bitter exchange between them, interrupted by the arrival of Hunter S. Thompson, who shoots Mr O. When Bobby asks him why, he reveals that he is actually working for the CIA, ‘and we don’t like loose ends’. Bobby begs Thompson to shoot him too. Thompson instead offers him a pill that will send him into a dreamless sleep, without nightmares. Bobby takes it and loses consciousness.

Thompson transports him to a mental asylum in Canada, where Bobby becomes a subject in MK-Ultra, the CIA mind-control programme. Despising this inhumane incarceration, Bobby makes an arson attempt on the hospital and is punished with torture in the form of electro-shock therapy. In a final face-off between Bobby and the doctors, they inform him that they need to ‘rebuild him from the bottom up’ and that in order to do so he must be made to forget his traumatic past. Bobby is horrified at the thought of losing his memories, but is overpowered by the medical staff, who forcibly inject him with insulin to put him into a coma. The doctors play a ‘psychic driving’ tape about the value of loving one’s country and serving the state, which they hope will brain-wash Bobby whilst he sleeps.

Photograph by Lewis Bush
“You know what to do if a pup ever shits in the house, ever bites the hand that feeds him?”
From left: Guard (Karl Niklas), Bobby Carter (Iain Marsh), Ewen Cameron (Julian Gyll-Murray).