Review: CRAWLSPACE (2012)

Aussie sci-fi flick, Crawlspace, is a lacklustre experience presenting a mongrel mix of paranoid thriller and creature feature with a dash of body horror thrown in for luck. Clearly a film with ambition, the budget and script just isn’t up to scratch. Incoherent instead of mysterious, the claustrophobic use of space feels less like dramatic impetus and more a case of cheapskate production values. Every corridor looks the same and no amount of nifty cutting and swirling, expressionist lighting – complete with blasts of smoke – can hide this. It is all very Ridley Scott-lite.

Former special effects man turned director Justin Dix makes a general hash of his debut, a film that longs to be a ripping pulp fiction yarn and comes off as derivative of superior product. Any initial genre interest soon morphs into outright tedium as this is the type of film we’ve seen countless times before – and done much better. Not to mention dialogue that even the mighty James Cameron – king of terrible writing, as well as the world – would blanch at.

A grizzled unit of soldiers are sent into the red rock Outback with a real choice mission. A top secret medical facility conducting experiments on telepathic individuals have lost control of their patients. What could have been a trashy actioner with soldiers, monsters and telepaths battling it out feels more Z-Men than X-Men. Given the key ingredients – even though purloined from other titles – it has no right to be so dull. Produced by director Greg Mclean (Wolf Creek), Crawlspace again serves to highlight the pervasive influence of video game shoot ‘em ups on a certain type of commercial cinema. Movies are now taking on the style and structure of video games with little concern for proper narrative engagement – beyond perfunctory nods – as if the overall concept and flashy visuals will provide the meat and the gravy.

Indebted to a roster of sci-fi pictures, such as Alien, its sequel Aliens, Paul W.S. Anderson’s dreadful but strangely popular Resident Evil series, and David Cronenberg’s Scanners, whole scenes ring with déjà vu in a genre movie broth that is less than appetising. In a crawlspace nobody can hear you scream.