February 28, 2013

Crawlspace (2013)

(aka Aliens 2: Scanners Down Under)
Release Date: On various VOD platforms now, Blu-ray and DVD releases TBD.
Country: Australia
Written by: Eddie Baroo and Justing Dix.
Directed by: Justin Dix.
Starring: Amber Clayton, Ditch Davey, Peta Sergeant and Nicholas Bell.

When I think about Australian movies, I tend to think of them fondly. I mean, the land down under has given us Mad Max, Crocodile Dundee, George Miller, Hugh Jackman, Heath Ledger, Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce, The Hemsworth Brothers... and I could go on.

To us, Australia has always been a treasure trove of talent.

Horror-wise, Oz is no slouch either. With offerings like (but not limited to) Lake Mungo, The Loved Ones, The Tunnel, Undead, Wolf Creek, Acolytes, The Horseman, and Red Hill (not to mention the creators of Saw, and their various projects.) The Aussie's have more than paid their Horror dues.

So when we catch wind of a new genre flick coming from the land where women glow and men plunder, we tend to take notice.

"Traveling in a fried-out combie..."
Crawlspace is the story of a group of Special Forces Soldiers sent to contain a security breach at a remote Government facility, somewhere out in the middle of the vast Australian Outback. It seems as if a bunch of naughty Scientists have been performing some crazy-unethical experiments on people, leaving the facility overrun with monsters and pissed-off telepaths.

"... on a hippy trail, head full of zombie..."
Down Undah Fowce Teen (The Australian translation of "Down Under Force 10"), or whatever they're called, is thrust right in the middle of a hellish labyrinth of shadowy corridors, and even more shadowy crawlspaces, and they have absolutely no clue what it is that they're even looking for... until, of course, they find it.

"...I met a strange lady, she made me nervous..."
Eventually the rag-tag band of tough-as-nails Commandos come across Eve; a crazy hot blond who seems to be as bewildered as she is afraid. Maybe she's a victim, maybe she's something more... alright, she's something more, mainly because a mad scientist made her into something more, because that's what mad scientists do.

"... she took me in and made my head explode me breakfast!"
What follows is Down Undah Fowce Teen fighting for their lives against crazy monsters, pissed-off telepaths, evil scientists, and each other. There's possibly some Aliens involved in all of this too, but we can neither confirm nor deny that... mainly, because we're not really sure.
*This whole time I've had the song "Down Under" stuck in my head, so be warned that this review is chok-a-blok with Men at Work Lyrics.

For being a smaller movie with what I'm guessing is a smaller budget, Crawlspace manages to deliver an interesting plot and a decent amount of tension. In all fairness, much of the movie feels a bit like Aliens (and every film ever made that was like Aliens), and it borrows elements from other genre classics such as Scanners (Yes, that scene from Scanners), but it manages to be fun enough that we didn't particularly care about all of the pilfering going on.

The cinematography was tight, the acting was solid, and the story was engaging, even though at times the narrative felt confused and sectional. All in all, it was a fun Horror/Sci-fi hybrid that fed our appetite for something dark and moody. Most importantly, it never felt like a cheap movie, although it was certainly made on the cheap.

"I've done no harm, I keep to myself..."
There's an awful lot of exposition to be found wandering the dark hallways of Crawlspace, and much of it tended to slow the movie down a bit. Low budget flicks can be a bit of a double-edged sword sometimes; either they tend to have too little plot development going on, which makes them feel hollow, or they have too much plot development going on, which makes them feel slow. Smaller films really can't win either way. On a smaller budget, exposition is the way to go though, because it's cheap. Like I said, this movie and its exposition slowed things up a bit, but it wasn't the worst thing in the world to have to endure... it's just that most movies tend to be front-loaded with the slower bits, and this one felt more like it packed it all into the third reel.

"No surface noise now, not much to say, they've got the bad guys on the run...."
At one point while watching Crawlspace, I became convinced that this top secret Australian Government facility was comprised of only hallways and crawlspaces, and maybe two rooms, max. I get that this movie was one constrained by a modest budget, but the whole "walk down this hallway, turn the corner to the next hallway, and keep walking..." thing felt a bit repetitive.

"At least there's pretty lights..."
Director Justin Dix is an accomplished VFX/SFX man at heart, so you know his directorial debut was bound to have some good action and gore gags packed into it. Our favorite of them all is a toss up between the mongoloid gorilla monster-thing and the exploding head bit. Then again, the part with the saw was pretty good too... Suffice it to say that there is plenty of blood and gore to he had in this one.

Johnny was not good.
No nudity, but the brief cleavage shot was kinda neat.

"Oh yeah, yeah!"
We're definitely fans of Australian genre flicks around here, and while not perfect, Crawlspace does manage to be pretty solid and entertaining. If you can overlook its flaws, you'll find yourself enjoying a well-made and clever (sometimes too much for its own good) flick, that will leave you feeling a bit claustrophobic by the time it ends. Catch it on VOD right now if you can, or if you're lucky enough to live in the U.K. (and OZ as well, I'm imagining), you can grab a copy when it hits Blu-ray in April.


There is certainly no shortage of hot chicks down under, as evidenced here by the lovely Amber Clayton and Peta Sergeant. *Peta Sergeant's name makes her sound like she's in some sort of animal liberation army or something, doesn't it?


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