It is said and has been chronicled, that there might have been some controversy with Klaus Kinski during the filming of this picture and yet one can never deny that the man was not pure gold on the screen, trouble or not. As a villain, the man excelled and it is no different here in Crawlspace from writer and director David Schmoeller.
In this particular movie, Kinski plays the son of a Nazi doctor who used to experiment on human beings, his tests almost always resulted in death. Raised by a Nazi in a Nazi regime would obviously mess with anyone’s mind and such is the case with Karl Gunther, the man whom Kinski plays. It seems Gunther likes doing his own experiments which usually involves the torture and killing of women who move into his building. Lori, as played by Talia Balsam, is in need of an apartment and Gunther just so happens to have one. She has no idea what the man is like but it is not long before strange things start happening and soon the tenants around her start dying off and she, much to her eventual discovery, is going to be next.
The film starts off innocently enough, at least sort of considering what is to come, and it is not long before Schmoeller gets into the thick of it with Gunther who begins to carry out his twisted desires. Kinski of course is fantastic and onscreen, quite terrifying when it finally hits the last act. The man is crazed, obsessed with his dead father’s journals which contain all the horrors that he committed while alive for the Nazi Party. Gunther still plays films of Hitler in his attic, crawls through the ventilation shafts to spy upon his tenants, keeps a woman locked in a cage much like his father would have and creates devices on a daily basis in order to kill or maim. If there is one thing that is utterly disturbing in this film, it is not the murders or the way each of the women happened to be dispatched though there are a couple that might turn a stomach. It is in fact the character of Gunther himself and Kinski plays the role to perfection, the man not only being the perfect choice to play the mentally scarred man but the man who carries the film on his back.
As far as horror films go, Crawlspace might not be the most effective picture to fall under that banner but one cannot argue that it is not compelling as Kinski makes it so. The only reason to watch this movie is in fact, Klaus Kinski and without him, it is hard to say if it would have been as effective with anyone else in the role. So if a Kinski fan, this movie might be well-suited with everything else that surrounds him simply a bonus. It is, more than anything, a curiosity and a good one at that.
3.5 out of 5