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Release Date(s)1986 (December 17, 2013)
Crawlspace spins a yarn about an insane landlord (Klaus Kinski) who’s keeping too much of a close eye on the female tenants in his apartment building... so much so that he’s using hidden crawlspaces throughout the building to keep watch of every move that they make. As he carves up tenant after tenant, his sordid and horrific past is about to catch up with him and the one tenant left in the building isn’t going to take things lying down.
The film was directed by David Schmoeller, who horror fans will recognize as the director of Tourist Trap and the original Puppet Master, but it also features a terrific score by the great Pino Donaggio and special makeup effects by John Carl Buechler (and his company Magical Media Industries, Inc). Klaus Kinski, one of the creepiest actors to ever hit theater screens, gives a chilling performance as a former Nazi obsessed with killing off his renters and collecting specific body parts from them while writing down his activities in a diary. The other actors do a decent job, but Kinski is really the whole ballgame with this movie.
I wouldn’t consider Crawlspace so much a horror movie as I would a thriller. For the most part, there isn’t a whole lot of hack and slash from a movie with a synopsis like I described previously. So there’s not much blood or gore to be had, but there’s plenty of atmosphere instead, which is far more threatening and makes for a creepier watch. The film feels almost claustrophobic in some ways and almost Wes Craven-ish in nature. I also got a Peeping Tom vibe from it, as well. It doesn’t come off like a lot of thrillers and horror movies from around that timeframe, which makes it a little more interesting. It’s a B movie, there’s no two ways about it, but considering that the director had to work with the notoriously-difficult-to-work-with Kinski and got the film to come off as well as it did, is a feat in and of itself.
Scream Factory has delivered up a fantastic transfer of this little unseen gem for their horror library. I was kind of stunned at how good this transfer looked, actually. It’s definitely a major upgrade from the previous Midnite Movies: Double Feature DVD release from MGM. Image detail is very strong, with a light layer of film grain throughout the presentation. Skin tones look great, as does the color reproduction. Blacks are pretty deep most of the time, but some crush and compression artifacts can be seen from time to time. Contrast and brightness are mostly good, although I felt it could have been dialed up just another notch. I didn’t notice any unnecessary signs of image adjustment (edge enhancement, etc), but I did notice some minor film artifacts here and there. All in all, it’s a surprisingly solid, without being perfect, presentation. The audio track is much of the same, which comes in an English Mono DTS-HD track. It’s got some surprising fidelity, particularly the score, which has a lot of life to it. Dialogue is always clean and clear and sound effects come through pretty well. It’s a good track and services the visual presentation well. Unfortunately, there are no subtitles included with this release.
In the extras department, you’ll find an audio commentary with director David Schmoeller, the Tales From the Crawlspace featurette, which is an interview with makeup effects artist John Vulich, the Please Kill Mr. Kinski vintage featurette, the original theatrical trailer, and two TV spots. Nothing groundbreaking, but a decent, albeit brief, assortment to look through if you enjoy the movie at all.
When all is said and done, I’d call Scream Factory’s release of Crawlspace a winner. It’s not a well-rounded package bursting at the seams with fantastic video and audio quality and tons of extras, but for a film that’s been hiding in DVD obscurity, it’s nice to see it brought back to life so well. Do check it out.
- Tim Salmons