Director – David Schmoeller
Cast – Klaus Kinski, Talia Balsam, Barbara Whinnery, Carole Francis, Tane McClure, Sally Brown, Jack Heller, David Abbott, Kenneth Robert Shippy
Release Year – 1986
Reviewed by John of the Dead
I was very much looking forward to viewing Crawlspace for a number of reasons, with the most prominent of them being the storyline. I love films involving voyeurism and the psychotic tendencies that surround such harmless acts (teehee), and my interest for this flick peaked further at the fact that this comes from Tourist Trap director David Schmoeller. While this film seems to have suffered some hate over the years for reasons that I did not come across in my viewing, Crawlspace was a very simple yet enjoyable film that does much with very little thanks to great direction – making for another addition to my gigantic list of underrated horror films.
Klaus Kinsky stars as Karl Gunther, the creepy landlord for a boarding house in which he only allows young attractive women to reside in, and for sinister reasons. Gunther has built a series of secret passages that allow him to get close and personal with his tenants, who he uses as guinea pigs for his erotic and sadistic experiments inspired by his time serving the Nazi SS.
I had some reservations going into this film due to the negative reviews that I had read, but the storyline interested me and despite his bad films (Catacombs – 1988) director David Schmoeller has shown he is a fantastic director, so I thought to myself “at the very least this should be a decent watch”, and thankfully my expectations were exceeded.
David Schmoeller once again shows us that he can come up with a simple yet very well-written storyline with this one. He did it a few years prior with Tourist Trap, and while this was not nearly as creepy it did provide a high level of interesting content going on before me. I loved the idea of a landlord using his business as his pleasure by turning the home into a voyeurist’s haven by incorporating a maze of well-placed air ducts that allowed him to spy on the women, making for a creative idea that I had yet to see used in the genre. This was made even more awesome when Gunther’s Nazi SS past was exposed, which lead to numerous kill sequences involving some clever (and kinky) gadgets used to dispose of the young women and anyone else who got in the way of his insatiable urge to kill, including the coolest kill using a chair that I have ever seen. Gunther was expertly written as a brash and cunning character whose dialogue was tight and his grip on sadism even tighter, making for a very enjoyable antagonist sure to please the numerous sick bastards that make up the horror genre. Those of you who enjoy claustrophobic horror settings should find at least some joy in this piece as the entire film takes place in this one boarding home, which thanks to the clever mind and gadgets of Dr. Gunther also results in a nowhere-to-run scenario for our doomed protagonists.
Schmoeller’s direction is top-notch, employing awesome sets and a fairly high production value for this low-budget effort, making for a visually appealing piece that should keep you engaged throughout. His execution of the horror was great, giving us quite a few good shocks and great usage of the sick killing devices used by Dr. Gunther. Schmoeller made fun usage of the extensive air ducts used for spying, and had me thinking how cool it would be to have a home like Dr. Gunther’s if I were a voyeurist pig, but only in a perfect world. The biggest selling point for this film though, aside from numerous positives, is Klaus Kinski’s performance as Dr. Gunther. He was utterly fantastic as this creepy old sadistic madman scientist and did one hell of a job for a guy whose career was in its last days and obviously not making a whole lot of money for this effort. Much like Anthony Hopkins immortalized Hannibal Lecter, Kinski made me an eternal fan of Dr. Gunther, who came and went through this world in awesome fashion.
Overall, Crawlspace is a truly underrated and unfairly hated-on flick that gives us a simple yet well-written story consisting of numerous cool ideas thrown into one well-paced 80 minute ride. Schmoeller does great with the overall execution of this piece, giving us good horror thanks to a sweet antagonist, expertly portrayed by Klaus Kinski, who gives us sweet memorable kills in this recommended mid-80s watch.