Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Bloody Nightmares #6: The Crawlspace (2006)

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It's the Chris Schwartz show, starring Chris Schwartz! The Crawlspace is a cheapie riff on Saw, but more impressively it's almost entirely a one man show. Chris Schwartz directed, wrote, produced, edited, starred, did the make-up and effects, and even scored the film. Luckily, far from being an awful vanity project, Schwartz has made a slow but reliably entertaining horror flick that makes the most of a minuscule budget.

And it really is watchable. While the script is shaky (and sometimes a bit pretentious) and Schwartz's acting can be a little much, the simple concept makes for some easy suspense and, despite a few missteps, the camera work is quite solid. Shooting in such a confined space must have been a logistical nightmare, but for the first time in the collection it feels like some scenes were actually planned in advance. They might not always come off perfectly, but the preparation pays off.

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The plot should sound familiar enough to modern horror fans. Mike (Chris Schwartz) wakes up to find himself trapped in a dank, disgusting crawlspace that is littered with junk. A phone-call reveals that Mike has been captured, and is now being watched, by the torturous "director", who gives him several challenges to perform in order to stay alive. The final challenge is a one on one confrontation between Mike and The Director, if he can manage to live that long.

Running only a little over fifty minutes, The Crawlspace never really gets a chance to wear out its welcome. While there are plenty of scenes of Mike wandering around in the dark, talking to himself, and crying out in pain, the action moves along nicely until the rather abrupt and unsatisfying conclusion. I won't spoil it, but the final confrontation misses the mark, though I was happy to see that there wasn't a twist shoehorned in at the last second.


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The photography is consistently dark and filled with noise, though this can likely be blamed on a combination of bad lighting and bad equipment. While the grain actually adds to the atmosphere of the filthy interiors, the problems persist in the few outdoor scenes and the unnatural colors seem out of place.

I was actually quite impressed by the film's score (composed by Chris Schwartz. Duh). It's mostly moody guitar screeches, but it fits the tone of the film and underscores the many scenes of minor action without ever overpowering dialogue. Unfortunately the film's sound effects are more distracting, particularly an unfortunate phone static noise that is irritating throughout.

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The full-screen video quality in The Crawlspace is occasionally glitchy, and certainly dark, but the lighting issues don't hurt the film significantly. As long as the film stays in the crawlspace audio tends to be fine (outside of the sound effects issues), but outside scenes run into some muffled dialogue.

We have chapter stops, again with no separate menu for them.

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Quite an accomplishment considering the resources available, The Crawlspace keeps its aims low which leads to a much higher success rate compared to other films i've watched in this collection. While still quite flawed, and obviously plagued by the appropriate comparisons to Saw and the like, Chris Schwartz shows a lot of potential and i'm certainly interested to see what he has in store in the future.

4 comments:

Ash said...

Well, on the basis of the screencaps alone, this one looks the best, but I have no idea if those are good to go by.

Doug Tilley said...

The director has a better grasp of a director's job than in most of the other films, and the editing is certainly more cinematic, but the screencaps are difficult because they don't show off just how noisy the image quality is. It's pretty rough, though it does fit the film.

The film i'm watching now, called THE BEWITCHING is actually competently made. But it's totally softcore porn. Barely a plot at all.

Anonymous said...

Um...any links as to where this might be available?

Doug Tilley said...

The Bloody Nightmares collection is available through Amazon.com here:
http://www.amazon.com/Bloody-Nightmares-100-Movie-Pack/dp/B00192QNXQ

Currently 40.49 for all 100.

I actually purchased the entire collection from Deep Discount DVD:
http://www.deepdiscount.com/viewproduct.htm?productId=47861651

Currently a very reasonable 30.97.

It can also be purchased in a separate 50 pack (the 100 pack is really just two combined 50 packs) called Decrepit Crypt of Nightmares here:
http://www.amazon.com/Decrepit-Crypt-Nightmares-Movie-Pack/dp/B000QQDKYG

But if you're just looking for a copy of THE CRAWLSPACE, your best bet is the 6-Pack Mental Maniacs collection:
http://www.amazon.com/Mental-Maniacs-6-Movie-Pack/dp/B000ELJ7GI

Which is about $10 or so.