FEARNET Movie Review: 'Crawlspace' (2012)


Note: The film I'm about to review is not a remake of the obscure 1986 Klaus Kinski psycho thriller Crawlspace. I feel silly even having to mention this, but Hollywood has remade The House on Sorority Row, The Crazies, and The Toolbox Murders, so I don't even know what qualifies as "obscure" anymore.

If you combine the phrases "Australian," "science fiction," and "horror" into the description of a new movie, I'll be the first guy in line to see it. Attribute my affection for Aussie cinema to childhood screenings of films like Patrick, Razorback, and Mad Max 2 (aka The Road Warrior), but I've always appreciated the indie Aussies' approach to mood, tension, action, and enthusiasm for car chases, fist fights, gun battles, crazy monsters, and violence with an outback attitude. I say all this because the most recent export from Australia's genre department is more or less a disappointment. The sci-fi / action / horror hybrid known as Crawlspace has numerous assets in its corner, but it suffers mightily from being plain old drab, redundant, and irritatingly familiar in the "plot" department.
That plot is this: a bunch of gung-ho soldiers are about to invade a top-secret underground government facility that's located beneath the middle of nowhere. There's been some sort of security breach, and the soldiers are a painfully Aliens-style brigade of tough-talkin' ass-kickers. After much wandering through dimly-lit hallways and mysterious laboratories, the soldiers come across (in no particular order) a monster, a mad scientist, a powerful telekinetic, and a gorgeous blonde. Turns out that the facility is experimenting in all sorts of unpleasant sciences, and it's up to the rapidly-dwindling group of soldiers to figure out what the hell is going on, and how the hell to get back to the surface.
So basically it's the Aliens soldiers in a dreary series of hallways who eventually run into some test subjects who possess some decidedly Scanners-like capabilities. Clearly originality is not one of Crawlspace's strong suits, although director Justin Dix does have a fine cinematographer in Simon Ozolins, and his leading lady (Amber Clayton) is both beautiful and rather a fascinating character as the film goes on. There are also some fine special effects and a few sequences of legitimate shock and/or tension, but none of these components can salvage a story that starts out drab, gets slightly more compelling, and then devolves into frequent bouts of clumsy exposition. The final reveals of Crawlspace feel like they started out as a clever enough Twilight Zone-style mind-bender, and some of those cool ideas remain, but they're couched in a rote and generally uninteresting narrative that, frankly, feels like it was cobbled together from five other movies.

Kudos to the filmmakers for trying to produce something a bit more cerebral than just "monsters in tunnels and soldiers with guns," but unfortunately Crawlspace is saddled with borrowed plot threads, generic characters, and a tiresome devotion to heated arguments in dimly-lit hallways. Once it gets rolling, there's some cool stuff to be found here, but overall Crawlspace is a pretty forgettable affair.