Crawlspace is – well, I don’t really know what Crawlspace is. Justin Dix’s claustrophobic thriller is a little bit sci-fi, a tad bit horror, a smidgen physiologically thrilling, but a whole lot of something else. Whether or not that something is mystifying and brilliant or substance-less and horrid is completely up to the viewer, but Dix certainly gives us a large chunk of varied material to process. Hope you’ve got your “paying attention” caps on for this one, along with a want for variety, as Dix’s film is a handful of genres all mushed together like different colored Play-Doh in the palm of a pre-schooler.
When looking at each part of Crawlspace individually there are certainly parts to love, but unfortunately when pieced together, the whole thing flows like a river with three dams, blocking proper momentum each time there is a tonal shift.
We start out with this straight action feel where some military types have to infiltrate a scientific research facility that has been overrun by patients. Seems like an easy smash and grab job where something goes horribly wrong, people die, and the team has to fight their way out. It even starts like this in a scene that showcases Justin Dix’s well-known special effects, bringing us a hulking creature that inspired a lot of hope for the film, but Dix fails to capitalize further. Without spoiling the reveal, the hilariously awesome creature is nothing but a short tease instead of a catalyst that busts Crawlspace into B-Movie insanity.
From there Dix transitions into this weird horror vibe indicating nothing is what it seems, abandoning the creature feature vibe just established for a more scare based approach. People suddenly start hallucinating and become plagued by insanity, travels become darker and more treacherous, a strange backstory is brought to light, and the action dies down in favor of a confusing ambiance. Um, what happened to the threatening experimental creatures roaming around the complex?
Anyway, pressing on even deeper into Crawlspace, the whole horror vibe is totally ditched, and Dix then favors a strictly sci-fi vibe which puts an emphasis on psychological elements. So if you’re keeping track – forget the action romp/creature feature first introduced, get past the whole creepy horror part where people can’t control their thoughts, and now focus on the sole plot point that everything so far has pretty much been a lie. Hold on, let me stop the room from spinning. Ok, I think I’ve got it? Yes, so with mind-controlling powers in play, the once simple clean up mission has now turned into a full on testing ground, and nothing is what it seems.
Ok, remember my Play-Doh comment? What I meant by that is in Crawlspace, you can clearly see the definitive line between each segment. The segments don’t mix together just as the different colors wouldn’t create something uniform, instead just looking like a sloppy ball of different origins. Nothing mixes, nothing bonds, and nothing melds together to create something solid. Every moment is too far from the next, and it becomes rather distracting and confusing honestly. I admit the fact that Justin Dix wanted to deliver something different and ambitious is admirable, choosing to tackle so many different aspects of numerous genres, but the script seriously loses focus along the way because of such a cluttered mentality. Characters, details and other crucial parts of the film are just lost, never leaving an impression worth remembering.
For whatever my two cents are worth, I would have loved to see Australian Jason Statham (Ditch Davey) run around fighting giant science experiments with his team the whole time, never switching from the fun that could have been had. Screw the mental games and numerous twists, give me a variety of beasties for our soliders to fight and tons of ammunition – almost like an Australian Aliens type adventure. Hell, the first encounter with one of the creatures had me strapped in for more, and I honestly felt cheated once I realized Dix had abandoned the idea. After a while, it’s hard to really get excited about any segment, because it was impossible to think that type of cinematic tone would be used for very long.
Crawlspace is nothing but a jumble of good ideas that don’t create much interest when packaged together. Justin Dix is a special effects guru, and he definitely brings his flair to a few kill scenes, but even those moments of more specific genre pleasure aren’t powerful enough to distract from a script riddled with ideas that have no cohesive quality. In all honesty, no part is all that bad if shown as a standalone, but the hodgepodge of material just made it too hard to invest in a story which couldn’t even solidify its own identity – or lack thereof I should say.