Monday, January 07, 2013

Justin Dix's Crawlspace Creates Surprises in Tight Spaces: A Movie Review

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*there are spoilers here.

Director: Justin Dix.

Writers: Eddie Baroo, Justin Dix, and Adam Patrick Foster.

Cast: Eddie Baroo, Justin Batchelor, Nicholas Bell, John Brumpton, Steven Carroll, Amber Clayton, Ditch Davey and Ngaire Dawn Fai.

Crawlspace is an Australian shot sci-fi thriller from first time director Justin Dix. The film's story was developed from one of the actors, Eddie Baroo, and from Adam Patrick Foster (Closure). In Crawlspace, an Aliens inspired military unit is sent below ground into a research facility to close shop. They find Eve (Amber Clayton), a powerful antagonist. The next ninety minutes is then an inspired film from the likes of the aforementioned Aliens, Scanners, Firestarter and more recently Chronicle. All of these inspirations come together in an interesting film, which is both well shot and curiously told.

The story initially tracks Eve as she tries to survive a seek and destroy mission. She was formally a patient of the facility and now, she is the target of several military men and women. Eventually, the military catches up with her and at this point, events get complicated. Romeo (Ditch Davey), a squad leader, finds that his supposed deceased wife is now trying to survive these terrible events. He feels compelled to save Eve, despite his orders. A late reveal shows that Eve is not who she appears to be, however.

And, Eve is one of the most interesting characters in the film. She initially appears as the film's protagonist, but this character element changes. Viewers will ever so slowly begin to realize that Eve is in fact the villain. Her cool and sincere demeanour hide a powerful psychic force. And, Eve is often willing to use her abilities to protect herself, while murdering anyone else who gets in her way. Eve is the one to watch in this sci-fi thriller.

The film's influences are another excellent feature. Crawlspace pays obvious homage to James Cameron's thriller, Aliens. One soldier uses a scanner to track hostile movement in a series of ducts just as Hudson did in the 1986 film. As well, the soliders' suits appear very much inspired by this earlier film. The comparisons do not end there. Eve's powers are reminiscent of the character Andrew, played by David Keith, from Firestarter. Both Eve and Andrew can push the less psychically abled characters to do as the pusher likes. Many minor characters find death at their own hands via a gun or handsaw. Heads explode from pressure just like in David Cronenberg's Scanners (1981). Also, those with great powers tend to use them for evil as in Josh Trank's Chronicle (2012). Absolute power corrupts absolutely. The trio of writers have done their film research and the gentle nods to other films in this feature is one of the more curious elements within Crawlspace.

Critically, Crawlspace is well shot and narrated. Dix is forced to work with a lot of darkness and the many tunnels and alleyways provide very little opportunities to use light. This darkness affects the film's mood. And, Crawlspace can come across as truly horrifying in scenes, especially if you are claustrophobic. Later, a saw to a skull is one scene that comes to mind, that is top notch and gruesome. Dix seems to keep the film fairly static, but his special effects background amplifies scenes with the use of light and shading. Viewers can tell when Eve's psychic abilities are being used; a gentle glow resonates around the scene's image. The film's story develops at a quick pace. The major characters are introduced early and they are given time to develop their own uniqueness. The script leans towards action scenes. Yet, there is enough dialogue here to keep the film focused on the characters as it should be. Both the story and shooting style keep this film interesting throughout.

Crawlspace has released through video-on-demand formats January 4th and fans of sci-fi thrillers will find something entertaining in this feature. In a similar horrifying vein as Event Horizon (with less gore) and Pandorum, Crawlspace still manages to find its own identity, with a compelling story. The pacing is often frenetic. And, Eve's change from protagonist to antagonist might come as a surprise for some. Her frightening powers are what keep the scenes gory, while the story finds its horrifying direction.

Overall: 7.25 out of 10 (good writing, most characters are interesting, the hero comes across as less than heroic in spots, the conclusion is a little soft).

*one brief scene in the film alludes to the fact that the surgical experiments involved alien beings. One alien is likely in the body bag, which Eve pulls back (but not for the audience to see).

The film's fan page is here:

Crawlspace on Facebook

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