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2012 | 117 min | Not rated | 2.39:1



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1 user review

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Theatrical release date

 04 January, 2013
 12 November, 2012

Country of origin




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Crawlspace Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, January 3, 2013

“Crawlspace” is a good example of a no-budget picture accomplishing quite a lot with very little. A blend of “Aliens” and “Scanners,” the feature has confidence and a definite vision for its claustrophobic scares. Perhaps originality isn’t a top priority for the screenplay, but director Justin Dix manages to fuse his inspirations and his aspirations into a tight 80 minute ride of hallucinations and chilling medical discoveries, feeding genre fans a moderate but effective level of gore to snack on while the dialogue explores devious manipulations. At the very least, it provides hope that Dix, making his directorial debut here, will go on to a career of satisfying shockers.

Eve (Amber Clayton) has awakened in the bowels of a top secret medical research facility know as Pine Gap, located deep in the Australian outback. Discovering she’s recently endured brain surgery, Eve is frightened, unable to recall who she is. Bursting into the building is a team of military grunts led by Romeo (Ditch Davey), ordered to snuff out any escaped prisoners making a break for the outdoors. Recognizing Eve as his lost wife, Romeo refuses to kill her, instead dragging her along as his squad is picked off by a horrible, mysterious enemy. Stumbling across Caesar (Nicolas Bell), a doctor with a God complex, Romeo is made aware of Eve’s psychic ability and the intensity of her newfound powers of mind control. Working his way to the surface, Romeo is tortured by visions of past trauma, while Eve begins to feel out the extent of her mental weaponry, using her implanted gifts to exact revenge on those who threaten her.

A longtime make-up man for such events as the “Star Wars” prequels and the fantastic Aussie western “Red Hill,” Dix finally graduates to the director’s chair for “Crawlspace.” Bringing with him a host of cinematic influences to help inflate the feature’s tires, Dix attacks the material with a healthy sense of creativity, trying to keep a simple premise of survival alert with ghoulish occurrences and (initially) unexplained interactions with monsters. There’s also a mystery of debatable power in play, finding Eve’s backstory called into question by numerous characters, while the seemingly vulnerable inmate doesn’t exactly know who to trust in this tense situation.

True to its title, the action is limited to tight spaces in “Crawlspace,” which follows the military team into an Area 51-type of secretive underground fortress, trying to find their way around the facility and complete their mission. Dix disguises the low-tech nature of the production wonderfully, keeping attention on argumentative behavior and a slow reveal of Eve’s purpose, investing in human tension with a vaguely sci-fi edge, not an extensive journey into elaborate set design. Once Caesar enters the film, offering viewers explanations concerning the clandestine compound and its surgical advancements surrounding the human mind, “Crawlspace” squeezes tighter, leaping into psychic manipulations, which come to act as a more powerful weapon than any gun. And for those sensitive to claustrophobia, Dix stages a showdown with Romeo and one of his men inside a tight metal air duct, hitting few visceral notes of suspense. Unintentional gasps for breath are to be expected.

It’s difficult to discuss “Crawlspace” without exposing all its secrets, though it rarely comes across as a feature dependent on such surprises. The script is solid, with compelling mysteries and few spooky encounters, while offering a little third-act mischief to spin the feature dizzy before the end credits hit. “Crawlspace” comes together quite niftily, boosted by fine performances by the entire cast and a focus on disorientation, sustaining the puzzle to the end. The effort also showcases Dix’s ability to shape his take on mental warfare without relying on visual overkill, content to dream up a sinister scenario with only the most basic of working parts. It’s B-movie expertise and genre inventiveness that’s always interesting to watch, working where many filmmakers have failed.

Starring: Ditch Davey, Amber Clayton, Nicholas Bell
Director: Justin Dix

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