When you read any of the press releases or plot notes for Crawlspace you immediately think Alien. What you actually get is something completely different more akin to Aliens, but with a few interesting ideas.
Crawlspace opens with a young woman (Amber Clayton) sporting an impressively stitched up head waking up in what appears to be a ventilation shaft, and with no idea how she got there. We are told that this is the Pine Gap Research Facility, a secret site run by the Australian and United States governments and where you would immediately expect something suspiciously unpleasant to be going on. As the site has now lost contact with the outside world a team of special forces lead by Romeo (Ditch Davey) has been dispatched with 2 objectives: rescue the doctors and kill any of the inmates they may encounter.
Upon arriving they quickly locate the above mentioned young woman who wears the name tag Eve and against orders to the contrary do not kill her, despite her being dressed in prison fatigues. As they explore more of the facility, spending the majority of the time doing so in the ventilation and maintenance shafts, they take down several targets and rescue a suspicious group of staff members who are not trying very hard to disguise the fact they have secrets.
From the very beginning Crawlspace gives the impression that there is a lot more going on than is being explained. The idea of monsters loose in the building is always your first thought and but this is something of a distraction, meaning it takes a while before you start to build up some understanding of the real story. The filmmakers even throw in an aggressive ape to throw you off the scent some more! Various flashbacks are used to fill in some of the back story but as the plot is slowly revealed to be about psychological experiments there is doubt as to the validity of these.
The performances are strong on the whole and the actors give a real sense of the tension and confusion they are feeling throughout. Ditch Davey is good as the conflicted leader, and reminded me a lot of Jason Statham which is no bad thing, and Amber Clayton switches between her characters differing personalities with ease, leaving you unsure until the very end of her real intentions. The plot is a little bit contrived at times and does borrow threads from many films but the central idea is a good one.
There are however a couple criticisms. The first act is fast and furious, really revelling in it's claustrophobic and gloomy setting, and dragging the audience along giving little time to grab breath. But the film then seems to slow down as more and more twists are revealed and the ending, while entertaining, feels somewhat drawn out. It felt a little the director wanted to make sure he got all his ideas in somewhere. The big reveal isn't too surprising either, but I'm not sure it's supposed to be as the main twist revolves more around the characters themselves than how they arrived at this point.
Crawlspace is a thoroughly enjoyable horror / thriller that will have you glued to the screen for the duration and achieves what it sets out to do. It manages to combine the squirmingly claustrophobic with the gorily unpleasant while still staying true to it's original idea. Well worth a look.