Crawlspace is the debut feature from director Justin Dix, a special effects and make-up artist who’s been hard at work in Australia for over a decade now. If you’ve seen any Australian horror movies in that time, then you’ve seen his work. His filmography includes Red Hill, The Loved Ones, Dying Breed, Storm Warning, Rogue, ‘Nightmares & Dreamscapes’, Lake Mungo and the Long Weekend remake. And if horror isn’t your genre, then you’ve probably seen his stuff in Star Wars Episodes II and III, since he was a droid unit technician on those productions.
Crawlspace plays out like a love letter to the sci-fi and horror flicks of the 80s. Whether it be Aliens, the work of John Carpenter or even Cube, it’s clear that Dix and his fellow writers were keen to combine all of these elements into a single feature. The plot centres on the Pine Gap satellite tracking station 18 kilometres southwest of Alice Springs which is operated by both Australia and the United States. For the purposes of the film, naturally, the powers that be have been conducting experiments within the base and something has gone terribly, terribly wrong. A team of special forces operatives have been sent in to fix the situation.
Within minutes, however, it’s clear that they’re in over their heads. Crawlspace isn’t a film that’s interested in a slow burn. It’s a near-relentless bombardment of action, violence and gore, and those with a weak stomach best watch something else. Whilst the pacing is impressive, I did find myself enjoying the one or two calmer moments the most. For the most part, this is a cinematic onslaught.
The best part of Crawlspace is that is looks and sounds great. It may be a low budget production, but everything impresses, from the set, to the score and the effects, both practical and digital. The cinematography and editing is fantastic also.
Whilst the dialogue is good, the script does have a couple of fundamental flaws. Most significantly, it’s hard to know who we should be rooting for. Shades of grey are one thing, but we aren’t really given a chance to feel for either special forces leader Romeo, or Eve, the mysterious test subject he discovers hiding in the tunnels. Everyone’s confused and not who they seem, so there’s no solid ground for the viewer. When you combine this with the frenetic, twisting and turning nature of the narrative, you have a detached viewing experience.
That being said, what Crawlspace does well, it does very well indeed. For horror and science fiction fans, there’s a lot to like here. The high octane and horrific moments and particularly well-handled and the film barely pauses for breath.
Crawlspace is out on DVD from 22 July 2013.Rating: