Thursday, November 27, 2014

Crawlspace (David Schmoeller, 1986)

If I told you there was a machete-wielding maniac in a hockey mask lurking in the crawlspace of your apartment building, I bet most of you would probably respond to this news by letting out an exaggerated yawn. Same goes if I told you there was a one liner spouting, knife glove sporting burn victim in a fedora sashaying around in your building's heating ducts as well. However, if I were to knock on your door and inform you that Klaus Kinski... Wait, where are you going? Don't run away, I didn't finish my sentence. Oh, I know what just happened, simply the mere mention of Klaus Kinski's name caused a sizable amount of my vast readership to flee in terror. Well, those of you who were brave enough to stick around need to be commended. I mean, think about it, Klaus Kinski (Slaughter Hotel) is not only watching you get undressed through the slits in your heating vent, he's an euthanasia enthusiast with ties to National Socialism.


Each day, Klaus Kinski, or, I should say, Karl Günther, begins his day by cutting his finger and smearing the blood the cut produces on a bullet. After the bullet has been properly coated with blood, Karl loads the bloodstained bullet into a pistol. Spinning the cylinder, Karl places the barrel of the gun against his temple. Without hesitating, Karl pulls the trigger. If the gun fails to go off, Karl says, "so be it," and carries on with the rest of his day.


Unfortunately, the rest of his day usually involves tormenting the female tenants who live in his building utilizing a wide array of techniques.


We get a first-hand demonstration of one of these techniques, when we see a tenant (Sherry Buchanan) murdered by one of Karl's gruesome booby traps in the film's opening scene.


You know what this means, right? Yep, there's an apartment in his building that's available to rent. When a man (played by the film's director David Schmoeller) attempts to rent the now vacant apartment, Karl tells him the apartment is taken. But we know the apartment isn't taken. You see, Karl has a strict no men allowed rule at his building. Of course, there's no sign stating the building doesn't allow male tenants. But judging by the amount of attractive women currently living in the building, there might as well be.


Since Lori Bancroft (Talia Balsam) is an attractive woman, she's quickly accepted as a tenant. Personally, if I was a creepy landlord who only allowed attractive women to rent apartments in his building, I would have rejected Lori. Why? It's simple, really. Sure, she's attractive and junk, but she has no personality. And get this, she dresses like a farmer. And because of these things, I was unable to root for her character when a series of Klaus Kinski-based obstacles are inevitably put in her way.


Thankfully, the other female tenants are able to pick up some of the slack. Unlike Lori, whose character isn't fleshed out at all, the other female tenants are stylish, modern women who are unafraid to take full advantage of what the 1980s have to offer in terms of colourful couture.


Oh, and if the music in the opening scene sounds familiar, that's because it was used in Brian De Palma's Body Double. At least I think it was. Either way, Pino Donaggio (Brain De Palma's favourite composer) is responsible for this film's score.


The first couture advantageous woman we meet is Sophie (Tane McClure), who is cutting holes in her red bra with a pair of scissors as two voyeurs watch from various vantage points. One is a guy named Hank (David Abott), who is outside watching through her window, and the other is Klaus Kinski, who is watching her from inside her heating vent. You'd think that Klaus Kinski would be the one she would be the most worried about, but it's Hank who poses the bigger threat. Or does he?


After waiting for Sophie to remove her red stockings (which we don't get a clear shot of), Hank enters her apartment. Hearing a noise, Sophie asks, "Who's there"? Wait a minute, Hank's no prowler, he's Sophie's boyfriend. I thought Sophie's demenour was a little too showy. It was obvious, now that I think about it, that Sophie was performing for an audience.


Yeah, she was performing an audience, but an audience of one, not two. In other words, Sophie has no idea Klaus Kinski is watching her demand that Hank not cum before she does. At any rate, on top of being into self-ventilated lingerie and rape fantasy, Sophie is also a singer, and, judging by the huge picture on her wall, a Barbra Streisand fan.


Bumping into Harriet (Barbara Whinnery) while bringing her groceries in, Klaus Kinski, like the true gentlemen that he is, helps her out. Noticing that she has lot's of candy in her bag, Klaus Kinski asks Harriet if she has a sweet tooth. I'll admit, liking candy isn't much as far as character development goes, but it's more than we know about Lori.


Maybe we'll learn more about her in the next scene, when Sophie, Harriet and Jessica (Carole Francis) invite Lori over to have tequila milkshakes and talk about boys. We don't learn anything about her right away, but we do get to hear Harriet describe her ex-boyfriend as "untenable, unemployed, uncivilized, uncouth and uncool." I don't know 'bout you, but there's nothing sexier than a woman with a Southern accent saying five un-words in quick succession.


It's not much, but it would seem that Lori doesn't hop up on furniture when she sees a rat (ever the prankster, Klaus Kinski lets loose a rat to break up the girl party). The only reason I can come up as to why Klaus unleashed the rat is that he was angry they didn't invite him. You might not know it to look at him, but Klaus Kinski loves tequila milkshakes.


Just kidding, he probably doesn't. What he does love is murder. And he loves writing about that love in his journal. Apparently a doctor at one time, Klaus Kinski used to kill his patients. But now, you guessed it, he kills his tenants. Since being a crazed shut-in and the son of a Nazi doctor responsible for performing grisly experiments on human subjects can be quite lonesome, Klaus talks to the woman (Sally Brown) he keeps locked in a cage. In order to keep her from talking back, he's removed her tongue, which he keeps in a nearby jar.


Speaking of which, the shelf he keeps the jar with the tongue in it will soon have company, as Klaus Kinski adds a jar with eyeballs and a jar with a finger to his ghastly collection. The finger belongs to Alfred (Jack Heller), Jessica's hoity-toity boyfriend. When Alfred tells Jessica, who is wearing a chic pink and black dress with black opera gloves, that she is "absolutely charming," I was like, duh, any idiot can see that. If I was in charge of things, I would have cast Carole Francis as the lead. Okay, maybe not the lead, but would have definitely given her more than two scenes. I mean, what a rip off.


On the film's IMDb page in the "goofs" section, it mentions the fact that the vents in Klaus Kinski are completely dust-free. How is this goof? It's obvious to anyone with half a brain that Klaus Kinski cleans the vents on a regular basis. Anyway, Crawlspace is an okay thriller with a nice claustrophobic feel about it (we never venture outside the film's central location) and it boasts an effectively creepy performance by Klaus Kinski; even though no woman in her right mind would live in the same building with him.


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