Details: 81 mins, Australia, English
Synopsis: A seedy bar-owner hires a mysterious Croatian to murder an acquaintance over an unpaid debt. The crime is carried out, but a planned double-crossing backfires and an innocent waitress suddenly becomes involved. Now a hostage in her own home, the young woman is driven to desperate measures for survival. A suspenseful, yet darkly humorous chain of events builds to a blood-curdling and unforgettable climax.
B-movie homage stands on its own two feet.
BRISBANE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: A thrilling cinematic work crafted with dark nuance and graceful skill, Crawl is a film brimming with the promise of things to come for director Paul China and star Georgina Haig. Their collaboration on this home-grown, noirish white-knuckler, alongside such veteran talents as co-star George Shevtsov and cinematographer Brian Breheny, has resulted in a debut effort that deserves consideration for program strands and global festival recognition.
Clearly inspired by and deeply respectful of the works of Hitchcock and the Coen brothers, Crawl’s creative team obviously has a love for the language of film and an understanding of the essential elements that ensure tension, drama and dark humour. From the slightly over-played opening nod to No Country for Old Men, China (with brother Benjamin producing) finds his own rhythm and style while still tipping his fan’s hat to the Coen’s Blood Simple, Miller’s Crossing and Fargo. The ‘Hitch’ factor is most obviously referenced in his blonde leading lady and her angular features, and reflected in shot compositions right out of Psycho, Dial M for Murder and Vertigo.
The stony-faced, sinewy Shevtsov plays a nameless hitman hired by repugnant bar owner Slim (Paul Holmes) to knock-off a local garage owner over a shady business deal gone bad. Holmes, his oily hair and curled lips miles from his past life as the FM radio DJ who once ruled the Sydney airwaves, is perfectly horrible as the coke-snorting publican and seems to relish exploring the darkest corners of the character – the type of scum who demands waitresses to pay off their debts to him by offering their bare behinds for spanking (in one of the film’s more extraneous but no less compelling sequences).
Next-big-thing Haig plays barmaid Marilyn Burns (a reference the star of the original The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, in another of China’s nods to film legend), a gentle romantic who is looking forward to the return of her sweetheart Travis (Andy Barclay) in the hope that tonight he will propose. But, on the dark, single lane road that runs by Marilyn’s house, the lives of Travis and the killer intersect and Marilyn’s romantic evening becomes a struggle for survival when Shevtsov’s psychopath makes himself at home.
Much of what makes Crawl so nail-bitingly effective is the silence that China employs for long periods, coupled with the fluid camerawork, crisp lines and deep, shadowy corners that Breheny utilises. The veteran cinematographer (The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert; The Hard Word) stepped up to co-produce for the first time and no doubt was influential in bringing on board such masters of their craft as editor John Scott (Newsfront; Roxanne; Sexy Beast) and composer Christopher Gordon (Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World). Their involvement and experience bolster the notion that China’s intention was to make his own chilling piece of genre cinema yet one that pays heartfelt homage, at times in minute detail, to the best exponents of the artform.
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