Tim's Movie Challenge Review
After starring as the Hunchback in Sergio Leone’s For a Few Dollars More, Klaus Kinski took the route of B-movie stardom. In fact, to his credit, 135 films under his belt before his death in 1991. He’s played Edgar Allen Poe, and he’s been in erotic thrillers. So why the hell haven’t you heard about him before?
Because he stars in movies like Crawlspace. Here, he takes the role of Gunther, a landlord for a mid-level apartment building that appears to be in great condition, and yet has a rat problem. Crawlspace begins unlike the rest of the movie, with the action right from the start. An unsuspecting tenant wanders into Gunther’s apartment and is disturbed to find a tongue-less woman in a cage, just before a booby trap impales her. It’s pretty much downhill from there.
The first major flaw with Crawlspace is that the title references something that doesn’t even exist in the film. Gunther has access to each apartment via the ventilation system which he crawls through and taps on a silver marble with a knife to freak people out. This is not a crawlspace. A crawlspace is a basement where you cannot stand up. This may seem like a small thing to some, but imagine if Titanic was called Dinghy. To me, having this film take place in an actual crawlspace would have been more fun, if not a bit difficult. Of course, titling the film Vents probably would not have gone over well with the studio.
The cast is full of a bunch of nobodies basically. A few people you may have seen here and there. Tane McClure shows her boobs in her debut, before spending the early to mid 90s showing them some more while pretending to have sex in softcore porn, until she landed the “breakout” role as Reese Witherspoon’s mom in Legally Blonde. Talia Balsam (No Strings Attached) is the only other character you really get to know as she is the fresh tenant Lori who ultimately ends up saving the day.
It’s not that Kinski doesn’t play the role with complete dedication - he does so very well. But much of the legitimate horror is cut out, so the film plods along with him hiding in the VENTS and staring at people while they undress, play the piano, and talk to strangers. Thankfully there was no stickiness in the vents, it’s not like the Psycho remake, though it’s almost as bad. With the exception of the impaler in the beginning, no other death scene is actually caught on film. Only the aftermath. Thus removing all of the actual intensity and horror. I can liken it to Halloween when Jamie Lee Curtis wanders through the house and all of the dead bodies of her friends show up. The difference is that we actually saw Michael Myers strangling and stabbing them. Here, just get Tane McClure with railroad spikes in her hands at the piano, and a vice grip around her face.
To top it all off, if the 80s couldn’t be more offensive than they already are, Gunther’s a Nazi. It’s never truly stated “I’m a Nazi!” until ¾ of the way through the movie when he starts watching Hitler movies and carving swastikas on his victims. Apparently he’s the son of a Nazi surgeon. He terrorizes these tenants (off screen mostly) while playing a solo game of Russian roulette. In the end of course, that’s his own undoing.
Crawlspace suffers from a poor judgement on the directors part to remove the actual violence. It creates a boring film, with limited qualities, poor acting, and a left field climax. The film has potential to be interesting, if the terror inflicted was more intense. Also... IT’S NOT A CRAWLSPACE.
MPAA Rating: This film has not been rated by the MPAA.
Runtime: 80 mins.
Director: David Schmoeller
Writer: David Schmoeller
Cast: Klaus Kinski; Talia Balsam; Barbara Whinnery; Tane McClure
Genre: Horror | Thriller
Tagline: You're just inches away from a fate worse than DEATH!
Memorable Movie Quote: "So be it."
Distributor: Empire Pictures
Release Date: May 21, 1986
Synopsis: A man who runs an apartment house for women is the demented son of a Nazi surgeon who has the house equipped with secret passageways, hidden rooms and torture and murder devices.