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Review: CRAWLSPACE (1986)

by Meredith Grau – http://lalalandhistory.blogspot.com

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Best Bad Quote:
“And then, he was gone, ‘Whoosh…’ Like a fart in the wind.”
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There is but one reason that I have forgiven my mother for all the mental damage she has caused me over the years, [bites bottom lip as single tear descends]. You see, she bought me a horror pack containing the film Crawlspace. The following is pretty much my love song to the Polish wonder, Klaus F. Kinski. (The “F” is for phantasm).
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Crawlspace is not your typical slasher movie. If viewed as a psychological deconstruction of a disturbed master mutilator, it is a phenomenon. Perceived as a horror film, it is horrible. Actually, it is “whoreable.” This movie is chock full of whores: brightly, neon-colored ones with loads of make-up and big ’80s hair. They’re walking mannequins of fashion’s regret. These sluts are all tenants at the mad doctor Karl Gunther’s (Kinski) boarding house. This landlord has a habit of accepting only female applicants. See, he likes to “crawl” around in the vents to spy on them as they do those silly things all girls do: have unnaturally unsexy sex with their soft boyfriends, eat mountains of cakes, squeal at rats, and cut holes in our bras so their nips poke through. (<—- Yes, that happens. I’m assuming the point is to maintain the cuppage boost and add on the allure of a ripe “is it cold in here” areola nation stimulation). There’s a new tenant though, and she’s pretty cool. She’sdifferent. Linda (Talia Balsum of Mad Men!) is smart. You can tell, because she’s always carrying books or reading books or talking in a normal voice. AND she wears glasses. As such, Karl takes a liking to her. She’s someone he can really talk to. Well, her and the other concentration camp looking chick he keeps locked up in his attic…
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See, Karl is German. (You know what’s coming). Turns out, his pops was a master of torture devices specifically designed to exterminate the Jews in WWII. We learn– from Karl’s adorable daily diary entries– that the same venomous bloodlust of destruction pulses through his veins. He used to be a doctor of repute. A good guy and noble servant of humanity. Then he started toying with euthanasia to give peace to his suffering patients. Then he just started killing because he kinda liked it. Haunted by his father’s actions, his sleeping, sinister inner Nazi is now wide awake, killing the boyfriends of his tenants, other annoying intruders– including some weird ass Sherlock Holmes-looking fellow who gets it literally in the butt– and sometimes the naughty, dirty girls themselves. But this is no ordinary murderer. Karl is a killer with conscience. He knows that what he’s doing is wrong, and to be honest, he’s disgusted with himself. Which is why he plays Russian roulette every time he makes a fresh kill. If God wants him to stop, he’ll blast him, right? Well, the bullet, which has his name engraved on it, never does fire, so Karl keeps on a killin’. Believe me when I say, the audience is on his side.
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Every character but Karl is annoying as Hell. There’s the nosy girl, the soap opera actress who plays a soap opera actress on her soap opera, and then there’s the “musician” of the group, whose golden voice will tickle your entrails until you taste them in your mouth. All these lame, shallow bitches deserve to die, mostly because they are horrible actresses. Thus, the movie does the exact opposite of what it should do. The audience is left with no other option than to root for the Nazi! Most of this is due to Kinski’s performance. Why he took this role or how director David Schmoeller got him signed on, I don’t know. Kinski is not exactly great to look at, often resembling the rats he’s so fond of (and can equally crush to death in his hand. True story), but he actually creates a pretty brilliant character here. Very well rounded and interesting. He makes Karl painfully shy and awkward around people, a sado-masochist who cuts his hands and burns his palms on purpose, and a pseudo cross dresser to boot– he sports eyeliner and lipstick when he’s feeling really saucy. The problem is that Kinski (Werner Herzog’s male muse) makes Karl too human. You feel empathy for the guy. His eyes actually glisten with tears! After all, the only pals he has are cage girl and the cat who accidentally offs itself in one of his devices. That being said, he’s also scary as f*ck, which makes him maybe the most intriguing serial killer since Hannibal. He just makes such interesting choices… When the film’s first victim stumbles upon his lair, for example, he doesn’t lash out like a crazy man, he just calmly says, “Oh, shit. You found my pad. Now I have to kill you. That’s too bad. Oh, and BTW, see that girl in the corner? I cut her tongue out.” Pushes button to impale pretty/stupid girl. Bye-Bye Betty.
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Inevitably, the bad guy has to get his. Those are the rules. So, as Karl starts to feel the walls closing in– some more of that crawlspace claustrophobia taking hold– he goes on a murder rampage. It’s like the director remembered that this is a horror film and not a character study. When you see Klaus Kinski rolling– yes, rolling– through the walls of his secret maze in one of the laziest and most worthless chase scenes in the history of film, you have seen it all, my friends. You have seen it all. Karl saves the lovely Linda for last, of course. The question is, did he do so because he wanted to end her life or his own suffering??? These are the controversial questions this film forces you to answer. It’s actually crap. The story is as slow as Poe’s pendulum of death, and the dialogue is often laughable to the point of absurd. At least the movie seems to be making fun of itself. Maybe the director is some kind of genius? I don’t know, and I don’t care. Kinski, with his alarmingly bouffant, Farrah Fawcett, bald patch, silver fox mullet (yowza!) could just be the greatest thing since sliced throats.
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Rating:
4 out of 5 Sieg Heil’s on Wheels
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