Sunday, November 11, 2012

Crawlspace (1986)



I like director David Schmoeller and Puppet Master is a film I still hold very high, even if it's almost forgotten because of the trillions of sequels and spin-offs coming from Charles Band the years after. It's a dark and stylish and actually quite eerie horror movie where the dolls is more creepy than funny and the gore is nasty and bloody. Stuart Gordon's Dolls is still the best doll-movie ever made, but Puppet Master isn't far behind. But this isn't about dolls, it's about one film by Schmoeller that has stayed away from my pretty movie star eyes for years and years...until I got a chance to buy it during the last trip to Germany. We're talking about Crawlspace of course, also famous from Schmoeller's little mini-documentary Please Kill Mr. Kinski, available on YouTube for the curious geek.

The story is almost embarrassingly simple. Kinski plays Karl Gunther, a former doctor - now a landlord - who obviously has some issues with his nazi-father. This means he's only renting out his apartments to beautiful young women and then kills them off one by one with traps and just good old fashioned stalking. Well, until a new girl moves in... who's really difficult to kill!

Crawlspace is a very simple movie, bordering to having a thin storyline. Well, yeah, the storyline IS thin, but it also has a very nice atmosphere and gorgeous cinematography by Italian master Sergio Salvati. Schmoeller keeps the story going with some creative directing, not letting the small set (basically a couple of rooms and the hallways outside them) bring him or the story down. The actresses hasn't much to do except looking good, but Talia Balsam shows some guts when working opposite the notorious Klaus Kinski, professional scene-stealer and sex-maniac, and manages both to be adorable and interesting. A hard thing in horror movies on the lower side of the budget-scale.

Of course, Kinski still steals every scene he's in and he's not even doing his best job here. He's still a vibrant character on the screen, and it seems - not unlike him - to do the best he can without dialogue. He's been avoiding talking in other movies, mostly because he feels that he as an actor needs to be able to do the part without unnecessary talking. I agree with him, but it's always a pleasure hearing his voice and here he's extra sleazy, like a wrinkled old German man-snake who obviously wants to fuck every actress he's working with. It's very visible, he's not discreet in showing his interest to the opposite sex when he's working. This, of course, makes the movie even more creepy and even if the story is weak - and it's quite low on gore - it's still an effective horror-thriller.

Crawlspace was made by production company Empire Pictures, who made an impressive parade of good and original horror movies with strong casts and bizarre ideas, so even this one. Shot in Italy with Italian crew and producer, this feels more European than American and that detail is a welcome twist on what could have been a tired slasher movie. 

3 comments:

David said...

"Stuart Gordon's Dolls is still the best doll-movie ever made..." You bet your ass!

Glad you referenced and linked to "Please Kill Mr. Kinski". Crawlspace is an enjoyable little film.

Anonymous said...

"also famous from Schmoeller's little mini-documentary Please Kill Mr. Kinski, available on YouTube for the curious geek."

Thanks, ninja.


"Of course, Kinski still steals every scene he's in and he's not even doing his best job here. He's still a vibrant character on the screen, and it seems - not unlike him - to do the best he can without dialogue."

Kinski was an intense performer.


"Crawlspace was made by production company Empire Pictures, who made an impressive parade of good and original horror movies with strong casts and bizarre ideas, so even this one."

I like this idea, thanks ninja, good review.


Megatron

Thomas T. Simmons said...

Another one of my all-time favorites. Well directed, great cinematography and I really like Kinski's performance in it. His repeated contemplation of the revolver is actually quite subtle and the camerawork for it isn't. Great combination.