Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Crawlspace: Weaponized ESP Down Under

In the 1980’s, the Soviets really did launch an ambitious “remote viewing” program, training psychic spies to watch and perhaps even read the American President’s mind.  It is hard to imagine any hostile powers bothering with such efforts now, unless they had no other access to the latest news from ESPN.  Nonetheless, the “technology” was taken seriously and it is about to blow up in the face of a clandestine Australian research institute, becoming the Macguffin of Justin Dix’s Crawlspace (trailer here), which debuts on VOD and begins a series of midnight screenings at the IFC Center beginning this Friday.

Echo Companies 1, 2, and 3 are approaching the double-secret Pine Gap facility buried beneath the Australian desert (where there are no pine trees).  They have two missions: terminate the dangerous inmates let loose during a power failure and rescue the scientific personnel.  It seems like it is a bad idea to combine a maximum security prison with a research lab, so maybe these prisoners are not whom they are billed to be.  Oddly enough, one of them also appears to be the late wife of company leader Romeo, who apparently harbors a wee bit of guilt over her assumed death.

Much to his team’s surprise, Romeo goes rogue, deciding to protect E.V.E., as her wristband identifies her, rather than fulfill their mission objectives.  This becomes particularly awkward when the monsters start attacking.  It is not until they “rescue” a truly annoying group of scientists that the psychic battle unfolding around them is insufficiently explained.  What does that make Eve?  Dangerous.

The directorial debut of SFX artist Dix, Crawlspace liberally incorporates narrative elements from the original Alien and Solaris, but little of their artistry.  It is long on atmosphere though, taking viewers through air ducts, service tunnels, and all manner of passages requiring grown men to stoop.  There are also several distinctively gruesome deaths for those who measure genre films by such standards.

Again, Crawlspace’s cast might not earn marks for distinction, but they get the job done.  While not remarkably expressive, Ditch Davey (a name so awesome it must be Australian) is appropriately manly as Romeo.  Strangely, both Peta Sargeant and Ngaire Dawn Fair exhibit more cinematic presences (as Wiki the commando and Emily the psychic blocker, respectively) than Eve, the pseudo-romantic co-lead, but Amber Clayton can at least act twitchy and roll her eyes back in her head when necessary.

Crawlspace is no genre classic but it is entertaining in a Big-Mac-with-fries kind of way.  Basically, it is heavily armed people going nuts in confined spaces.  Horror movie fans, particularly those with a taste for flicks with a light sci-fi seasoning, should have at it this Friday (1/4) when it screens Midnights at the IFC Center and hits VOD platforms.