The Girl in the Crawlspace Image

The Girl in the Crawlspace marks the debut of John Oak Dalton, who shot the film using mostly Ohio talent and an Indiana locale. It takes jabs at small-town life as much as it does big-city living but seldom settles on a consistent tone to drive its narrative and has much more on its mind than its name and poster would imply. Upon first blush, it looks more like a run-of-the-mill slasher on a budget. Those looking for the lurid tropes of the genre will be quite disillusioned as the film progresses. While it manages to bring forth some interesting perspectives, it’s unable to do more than waft them into the ether.

The Girl in the Crawlspace focuses on Jill (Erin R. Ryan), who we first meet escaping her abductor, known as the Crawlspace Killer. Woody (Tom Cherry), the local cop, sends Jill to seek therapy from Kristen (Joni Durian), who relocated to the country life after a stint in Los Angeles. Kristen brought along her screenwriter husband Johnny (John Hambrick) in hopes of repairing their failing relationship. As Jill slowly divulges details of her capture, she speaks of movies she viewed during her abduction, but Kristen cannot seem to find their existence, which leads her to question just what aspects of Jill’s story are real and what were coping mechanisms.

Meanwhile, Johnny attempts to adjust to his new slower-paced lifestyle by wandering the town and stumbles across a gathering of locals involved in a tabletop role-playing match, which Johnny played back in his college days. While Johnny’s time spent at the table discussing elfin quests with his new-found friends helps develop the character’s arc and provides a few moments of levity, it adds to the overall disjointed structure of The Girl in the Crawlspace, which is its core issue.

“…leads [Kristen] to question just what aspects of Jill’s story are real…”

As a regional film, perhaps The Girl in the Crawlspace caters to a very select, focused audience more familiar with its settings, as well as those involved with the fan-fiction communities that populate the internet. It struggles heartily when attempting to move outside that comfort zone and includes lines like Johnny asking his agent for a meeting with Tom Cruise when it looks like the closest he’s been to the actor is the cutout at the local video store.

The horror/thriller is also hampered by its casting. While the main actors perform well enough, the surrounding cast ranges in talent and delivery, stilting whatever dramatic moments Dalton hopes to build. The shoddy acting calls to attention the clumsy construction of the movie, with all its meandering plotlines.

In its attempt to further flesh out its characters, The Girl in the Crawlspace neglects to provide us a suitable background of its main thread. It flirts with the psychology of Jill, but even in that effort, it comes up short. And for those seeking glimpses of sex and gore that often accompany such releases will not find it here. It’s constructed more to highlight elements of mystery, but the movie’s “reveal” in the latter act is fairly evident when we are initially introduced to all the characters. The narrative structure hopscotches randomly, and its discordant tales never weave together in any satisfying nature.

With a bit more attention to structure and semblance, John Oak Dalton could have crafted a divergent take on an oversaturated genre, as he clearly wants to explore more than the garden-variety serial-killer thriller. But as it stands, The Girl of the Crawlspace is an unnecessarily cluttered clump of deeper ideas searching for a unified meaning.

The Girl in the Crawlspace (2020)

Directed and Written: John Oak Dalton

Starring: Tom Cherry, Joni Durian, John Bradley Hambrick, etc.

Movie score: 4/10

The Girl in the Crawlspace Image

"…its discordant tales never weave together in any satisfying nature."

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