Australian thriller Crawlspace comes to us from IFC and Director Justin Dix. The movie starts with it’s fair share of gore, but the opening scenes belie the rest of the film. I made the mistake of starting it as I at down eating my dinner. Not the best move, especially not when eating pasta with red sauce. This film didn’t capture my attention at the outset, and though that changed further into the movie, it was for all the wrong reasons.
The film starts with a military team being dropped into Pine Gap; an underground military installation to kill escaped prisoners wreaking havoc on the base and extract the scientists that are left alive. When one of the prisoners turns out to be a long believed dead wife of one of the soldiers the mission turns from taking her out to protecting her. That mission becomes more dangerous as the group realizes there is more than meets the eye to the facility and what has gone on there. The team isn’t keen on taking on the job of protecting someone they aren’t even sure they can trust.
The initial military scenes were very old school sci-fi feeling, but not in a good way as they were underacted and started seeming a little video-gamish. I am even less impressed with how slow the film moves. With regard to content and story matter, it needs a little less talk and a lot more action. The psychic powers that have been unleashed as a result of the experimenting going on at the facility throw obstacle after obstacle in the path of the military rescuers and their charges; a group of scientists they stumble across. The crew have to battle psychic terrorists essentially and only have guns with which to do so. Add to the mix the sadistic scientists that the soldiers were meant to save and the story, as well as the multiple underdeveloped characters muddle things just enough to keep any solid storyline from emerging.
This film might have been a success in the 1960′s, but it’s terribly difficult to get through in the 2010′s. I found myself frustrated with the pace, flashbacks and psychological demonstrations of the prisoners. Not to mention the lack of chemistry between the actors. I feel as thought the potential for the film was lost when the filmmakers showed their hand too early. They let us in on the secret of the psychic elements at play much prematurely, when they could have kept us invested in the mystery of what was happening for much longer. This is the number one issue I have with M. Night Shyamalan films as well. Unfortunately, the opportunity to keep the audience guessing was lost as all of the hallucinations induced though normal-ish, they were obviously not things you would find on the base and were too poorly executed to even give us pause as to whether or not these things were really happening. I would have liked to see scenarios that “could have been” happening or some serious sci-fi creatures to draw the audience in to the story, keep us guessing. I have to admit the premise is an interesting one but the elements of good entertainment just aren’t present.
Crawlspace has so much potential, but many lost opportunities to engage and intrigue the audience. It brings to mind a poorly executed version of Resident Evil mixed with one part Species, one part The Astronaut’s Wife minus the undead and aliens, though obviously more of intimate effort was put in to making this film. I can see the the thought that was put in to the story of Crawlspace, and frustratingly the flow of the scenes and acting come together during random moments but then are lost again. There are some interesting arcs that just don’t go anywhere. I wanted to like this film, but less than halfway through I was ready for it to be over, with the last ten minutes being the hardest to get through. In short, this wasn’t a film for me.
Crawlspace will be available in select theaters, on IFC Midnight Cable, VOD and Digital Outlets Friday, January 4, 2013.