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January 9, 2013

Crawlspace

(2013, Dir. by Justin Dix.)

A bizarre mixture of gore and the supernatural, Crawlspace is a film that wants to be profound without ever stepping off the gas pedal.  The film is packed full of screaming and gun shots and an oppressive musical score, and the whole thing just felt abrasive to me as it went on.  This is a real shame, considering the film's intriguing set up.

Crawlspace follows a group of soldiers who are sent in to a military base in the Australian desert, a base in which we find there are few survivors to be rescued and a mess of dead bodies in the (you guessed it) crawlspace between sciencey examination rooms.  The most important of the survivors is (naturally) a woman, and we soon learn that she's got some unique powers that are more than meets the eye.

The idea behind the film - that this government testing facility was a training ground for weapons of psychic warfare - is far more interesting than the bombastic method with which it's presented.  Though it's not based on any specific truth, the film's insinuation that governments may try to harness preternatural powers like mind control is no myth.  There are plenty of reports of "psychic warfare" in the real world, taking place everywhere from Nazi Germany to the modern United States.  You know that scene at the beginning of Ghostbusters where Bill Murray tries to get the nerd and the hot girl to guess shapes on cards? That stuff really happens, and the government spends millions on it so they can build a force of psychics to get an edge on the Russians or whoever else they don't like.  For serious.  Read The Dead Roam The Earth, which I just reviewed a bit ago, and there's a whole chapter on it.  Or just Google "psychic warfare" or "remote viewing" and look at some of the crazy stuff out there.  (And, if you're an American, remember that your taxes are paying for it.)

Crawlspace taps into this and goes a little further, as the woman at the center of the plot - Eve, played by Amber Clayton - is capable of a little more than just clairvoyance. The most interesting parts of the film come in the final act as Eve's abilities are tested and challenged, both by the overseeing scientists and the crew of soldiers that have come to save them, particularly one man who she may or may not have had a previous relationship with.  Clayton is a stand out when she's empowered in the role, and there are plenty of memorable moments dealing with her abilities as the film builds to its finale.

Unfortunately, most everything else in the film feels muddled. The crew of soldiers seems like a direct photocopy of the kind of characters we've seen in plenty of films since Aliens, and the science side of the plot offers little of interest outside of the ideas regarding psychic warfare.  The film is packed full of violence and there's rarely a lull in the action, but I got tired of this rather quickly. The film doesn't look like anything special either, with the crawlspace's lighting not creating any mood and some special effects failing to impress at all.

Crawlspace is a perfectly fine way to waste 90 minutes if you're looking for shouting, action, and a dose of science fiction, and I don't think the film does anything too poorly. But it also doesn't really seem to stand out much, aside from the few great moments in Clayton's performance. Crawlspace is a high concept genre hybrid that has plenty of great thoughts, I just wish it had done a little more with a few of them.

Crawlspace is currently available on VOD and in select theaters via our friends over at IFC Midnight. Feel free to check out more about the film over at their site or on Facebook, and don't forget to check out the trailer below.