Running Time: 87 mins
Reviewer: David Gillespie – Official HCF Artist
Crawlspace is a throwback to the low budget, sci-fi horrors that Roger Corman used to churn out in the 1980’s. Viewers are treated to the pretty leading lady in a tight t-shirt, the square jawed hero, wobbly corridors (or the same wobbly corridor), ropey monsters and lots of gore. The main plot curve reminded me of the unintentionally hilarious but fun 1981 shlocker, Galaxy of Terror. Featuring such well-loved names as Robert Englund and Sid Haig, the movie will be remembered for a bizarre and titillating sequence involving a leggy blonde scientist getting pleasured to death by a large grub. Unfortunately Crawlspace does not include any subterranean sex machines or anything as memorable.
Within the Australian Outback lies Area 52, an underground research facility financed by the American government for biomechanics experimentation. When a distress call is sent from the location, the Australian Special Forces are sent in to clean the mess up. On arrival, the group of stereotypical macho soldiers, led by Romeo (Ditch Davey) come into contact with mutilated bodies and a troubled but beautiful young woman called Eve (Amber Clayton). Yes, this story sounds very familiar. When the rest of the troops prepare to eliminate the woman, Romeo protects her claiming that he recognizes her to be his recently deceased girlfriend. After an attack by an angry, mutated gorilla, the team meets the only surviving members of the medical staff. It appears that experiments were conducted on inmates that enhanced their telekinesis abilities. Soon the remaining soldiers are seeing all sorts of manifestations and Eve may be their only hope of escaping the compound alive.
1st time director, Dix is not unfamiliar with the sci-fi genre having worked on all three Star Wars prequels as a make-up man. Both he and cinematographer, Simon Ozolins have successfully created a low budget, b-movie horror that looks and sounds magnificent. There is a wonderful sense of dread and claustrophobia as the soldiers climb through the endless labyrinth of narrow corridors and air shafts. The lighting is perfect also. Dix wisely hides the creatures just enough that they seem far more impressive than they probably are. The makeup and special effects are, as you would expect, spot on also with one particular death, involving a surgical saw, being assured a rapturous applause by the gore hounds.
The movie’s main weakness is the storyline which is a collection of ideas lifted from other movies such as Aliens, Scanners, The Descent etc, to name but a few. Half way through the running time the plot takes a massive detour that might work for some and ruin things for others. Personally I found this to be a step in the right direction with Clayton being given a more active role in the action. Shefeatures in the movie’s most effective scene which involves Eve defending herself from a scientist who will use any surgical instrument at his disposal to destroy her.
Justin Dix directorial debut is a visually stunning, jumble of ideas that occasionally hits the right notes. There is enough evidence to suggest that with the right material we can expect exciting future projects from the young director. Crawlspace is a well packaged beer movie that could have been so much more with the right screenplay.