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Film Review: Crawlspace (1986)


A creepy old German guy named Karl becomes the landlord of an apartment complex and only allows young, sexy women to live there. When he isn’t busy playing Russian Roulette or sticking his hand over the burner of his stove he spends his time spying on all of his tenants through the crawlspace (as well as releasing his pet rats into their homes)before he eventually kills them. Under pressure due to the fear of being caught by a Nazi hunter, he snaps and goes on a killing spree, determined to wipe everyone out once and for all. And you thought your landlord was bad.


My mom loves horror movies, which is part of the reason that I have always been into them as well. I guess I should rephrase that comment, actually. My mom likes some horror movies. She isn’t fond of ones that feature vampires, werewolves, zombies, demons, and the like, but she loves the more realistic ones that could actually happen in the real world. Crawlspace is right up her alley so it is no surprise that she really digs it (I remember watching it and Friday the 13th Part 6 on VHS the same weekend when I was a kid and liking it a little bit better personally). I like it too, and think that it is a forgotten gem from the 80’s that has never gotten the love or respect that it deserves.

The opening scene is pretty damn effective and grabs the viewer by the throat. In the first couple of minutes of the film we see a woman get killed by an elaborate contraption that would make Jigsaw from the Saw series piss himself, we meet Karl’s “pet”-a woman he keeps locked in a cage that can’t speak due to the fact that he has cut out her tongue-and we learn that he is a total nut job who has absolutely no regard for himself or anyone else. The opening scene sets the pace for the rest of the movie and I think that it is one of the most powerful first five minutes or so of any horror movie to come out of the 80’s.

In addition to having a pretty awesome premise (that reminds me a bit of the ‘60s classic horror flick “Peeping Tom”) I have to say something about Klaus Kinski, who plays Karl. In my opinion he pretty much makes the movie and it wouldn’t have been nearly as good if he hadn’t been a part of it. He was just a creepy individual in general and his performance here is perfect. He is flawless as the completely insane, deranged Karl who has suicidal and sadomasochistic tendencies and I dug every minute of his performance. He owns every scene that he is in and as a result you actually believe that he is a self-abusing sicko who enjoys tormenting and killing others. From what I have read he was a real nightmare to work with while this movie was being filmed which resulted in the director David Schmoeller to put together a documentary about the making of Crawlspace that titled Please Kill Mr. Kinski that detailed what took place between the two on the set.

Along with some pretty wicked death scenes (watch out for the booby-trapped chair, people! Ouch!) the movie just has an overall creepy feel to it. I wouldn’t want to be a woman living in Karl’s apartment complex and I am sure that pretty much anyone who has seen this movie feels the same way. I think what makes him such a terrifying person is that he is just a normal (well, kind of normal), regular person capable of doing horrible things to others as opposed to him being an unstoppable, soulless killing machine or some sort of supernatural being that can’t die. This guy is your neighbor, your co-worker, or your boss, not some literal monster that rips your heart out and eats it in front of you before you die. My mom always argues with me that realistic movies are a lot scarier than others, and when it comes to Crawlspace I think that she is right.

I have always liked Crawlspace and am glad that it held up as well as I remembered it. To be quite honest I felt a little icky after watching it and felt like I needed to take a shower, a sensation usually only reserved for after watching Italian zombie flicks from the ‘70s. Basically what I am trying to say here is that you should check it out if you get the chance to do so as you won’t be let down. Just don’t blame me if you feel a little weird afterward.

Crawlspace (1986)

About Todd Martin

Todd Martin grew up in Irvington, a small town in Kentucky. Thanks to his mother, father, and favorite uncle he started watching horror films at a very young age and has been a horror geek ever since. He is basically a walking encyclopedia of horror flicks (especially the 80’s slashers), comic books, and pro wrestling, and has been writing for the biggest majority of his life.

His first book, Nightmare Tales was published in 2006 and he has had several short stories published in several collections. He and his wife Trish published their book “The Gardener,” a horror novel that is a throwback to the slasher films of the 80’s in 2011 and he is working on a collection of short horror stories When he isn’t reviewing movies and books or doing interviews for Horrornews.net he has been known to act from time to time as he has appeared in a handful of low budget horror films. He also enjoys writing screenplays and enjoys making movies as well. He wrote the segment “Angel” which appeared in the 2004 film “Tales from the Grave 2: Happy Holidays!” which was produced and directed by Stephanie Beaton, and recently appeared in Tim Ritter’s film “Deadly Dares: Truth or Dare 4.”. He resides in Kentucky with his wife Trish, their cat Buffy, and their wiener dog, Cujo

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