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Hot blonde Eve (Amber Clayton) wakes up in a series of tunnels in some super duper secret Government facility with no memory of how she got there, or why she has a big ol nasty scar on the side of her head. Soon, Eve is running (well, crawling, anyway) from monstrous animals and a squad of not-so-special forces soldiers sent in to wipe out Eve and her fellow inmates. Apparently this particular facility specializes in doing wacky experiments on prisoners and animals, and this is the result. We’re told the facility is a co-Australian/American production, because gosh, if there are illegal sci-fi experiments with disastrous implications to be done, you gotta figure those rascal American Government folks must be involve somehow.
Directed by Justin Dix, a longtime special effects man who also co-wrote the script, “Crawlspace” is what happens when a longtime genre fan finally gets the chance to make his very own genre film. The problem is, that film is a mish-mash of every other films he’s seen and loved over the years. That’s “Crawlspace” in a nutshell — a lot of everything you’ve seen before tossed into one big Aussie blend that really doesn’t distinguish itself in any way. As a result, you get soldiers battling a killer ape (probably the coolest creature of the bunch, and it’s over before you know it), a bunch of psychic psychos, and your usual assortment of slimy scientific types. These “elite” soldiers are the usual bunch of “movie” soldiers — antagonistic, generally stupid, and highly disposable. They also talk way too fucking much.
If you were looking for an easy 90 minutes to waste away your Sunday morning, “Crawlspace” is a mild diversion. For the undemanding viewer, it’s got plenty of bloody action and leading lady Amber Clayton (that’s her in the pic above) is easy on the eyes. The creature effects range from decent to pretty good considering their budget (though the film is nowhere near being a “low budget” enterprise). The biggest disappointment is that “Crawlspace” doesn’t make nearly enough use of its claustrophobic potential, with most of the “crawl space” being way too brightly lit, so much so that when the soldiers slip on night-vision goggles at one point it looked absolutely absurd. And this is coming from a guy who is easily terrified of tight spaces in real life or in the movies. None of the actors really stand out, though leading man Ditch Davey gets bonus points for playing absolutely the worst commanding officer in the history of movie commanding officers. Seriously, I would have fragged this idiot 10 minutes into the mission because following his dumbass orders is clearly going to get me killed.
SILENT HILL: REVELATION (2012)
Taking place after the events of the first “Silent Hill”, “Silent Hill: Revelation” stars Aussie Adelaide Clemens as Heather, a teen whose father (Sean Bean) has been moving her from town to town for as long as she can remember. Heather thinks it’s because pops once killed a dude, but the truth is, she’s the innocent part of a malevolent demon called Alessa that holds the cursed town of Silent Hill in her death grip. Growing up is hard, ammaright? With the help of Jon Snow, Heather returns to Silent Hill to save her father and possibly end Alessa’s reign of terror once and for all. (Unless, of course, “Revelation” makes money, in which case there will probably be a third film.)
As sequels go, “Revelation” doesn’t re-invent the wheel, and is essentially the same movie but with a new female lead. (The first film’s heroine, Radha Mitchell, makes an early cameo in case you’re wondering.) After the film’s initial 30 minute set-up, Heather is back in Silent Hill running from all the same nightmarish scenarios that her mom did six years earlier. Michael J. Bassett (“Solomon Kane”) directs this time around (he also wrote the script), and does a fair job at re-creating the first film’s visuals. Mind you, not that he really stretches things, but I guess it was smart of him to use the basic template that already existed thanks to the first film’s director, Christophe Gans, without straying too much. “Revelation” is nothing if not safe, but I do give it bonus points for putting Malcolm McDowell in chains in a bit role. All the monsters you expect are here, including Pyramid Head.
People that will enjoy “Silent Hill: Revelation” the most will be the base horror fiends out there. Anyone who isn’t already familiar with the first movie (or the games) will be hopelessly lost watching the sequel, despite the plentiful flashbacks and exposition provided by the characters that pop up here and there, most of them seemingly for exposition purposes. (I’m looking at you, Deborah Kara Unger.) I’m not sure how faithful the film is to the games, but it has its moments, though not nearly enough to make up for the somewhat lame ending that comes down to two creatures battling it out with ridiculously oversized weaponry. Even Carrie Anne Moss (of “Matrix” fame) as some kind of demon priestess, essentially the movie’s main villain, is wasted, her entire screentime totaling about, oh, 5 minutes or so. “Revelation” ultimately turned in decent box office numbers ($50 million from a $20 million budget, not counting a big promotional push that saw it in almost 3,000 screens on opening night), but I could see it returning as a much more bare-bones horror film, one that doesn’t completely rely on expensive special effects.
BAD KIDS GO TO HELL (2012)
Turns out, there’s not really a creature in co-writer/director Matthew Spradlin’s “Bad Kids Go to Hell”, unless you count the vengeful spirit of a dead Indian — that may or may not actually exist. Billing itself as a twisted, bloody version of “The Breakfast Club” (including the stunt casting of Judd Nelson as a dickish headmaster), “Kids” is a horror/comedy shot on a modest budget, based on a comic book by Spradlin. The trailers for the film were promising, and featuring Ben Browder (of “Farscape” fame) among the cast didn’t hurt. The film itself has some worthwhile comedy gags, though in order to get to them, you’ll have to sit through lots and lots of mundane plot twists that aren’t the least bit interesting. The film actually opens with a flashback … that then launches more flashbacks, giving us, yes, flashbacks within a flashback.
The film’s plot finds six “bad kids” getting detention for various misdeeds throughout the week. They are locked into the library and left alone, because this is how detention works in the minds of screenwriters. (Seriously, have these people ever actually been in detention? I have, and no one has ever locked me in a library and just … left.) FINALLY, the plot gets going, with the token goth girl getting the others together to hold a seance, which ends up with one of the kids dead. Unfortunately, you’ll now have to wait 30 MORE MINUTES before the next kid bites it. In the meantime, try on some more flashbacks! At one point one of the kids sort of just disappears from the movie, only to resurface later at the climax. I envy him. I wish I could disappear for most of the movie and come back for the end, too.
“Bad Kids go to Hell” is Matthew Spradlin’s first feature film as a writer/director, and it kind of shows. There are huge chunks of the movie that just takes up space, the first 30 minutes are simply excruciating, and there are whole stretches where the movie is just unforgivably dull. And while I get that part of the gag has the characters being obvious genre archetypes, couldn’t they have also been more interesting? The acting is serviceable but not great, which makes you wonder why Spradlin couldn’t have hired more age-appropriate actors for the roles. (Or at least, age-appropriate-ish.) I’m pretty sure a couple of the actors were in their ’30s. In fact, only de facto lead Cameron Deane Stewart can pull off the teen role at all. (See above pic of the cast.) Although not a good movie by any stretch, I can see “Bad Kids Go to Hell” eventually developing a cult fanbase among the more undemanding horror fan. There’s boobs and blood, in case you were wondering, though no real stand-out kills. Ben Browder, though, is great, but it’s too bad he only shows up intermittently.