Movies from the 2000s

Crawler

CrawlerIs this cover art ever deceptive? A piece of heavy machinery with Kraken tank treads and a penchant for human blood? Crawler, a movie about a killer bulldozer, covers new ground (literally) and isn’t nearly as terrible as it should be. In fact, it’s kinda loveable, like a mom loves her reprobate criminal son.

The demise of video stores (and associated eye-capturing cover art) means, to quote the late BB King, the thrill is gone when it comes to happening upon something so ludicrous, so god-awful looking and yet at the same time an absolute must-rent.

Crawler is just that. The poster is an absolute riot and Fifty Tons of Terror is a tagline to beat. But is the flick tons of fun?

Evil developers are callously constructing a golf course with complete disregard of a murder victim having been previously found there. Or something. And the deceased’s mother is picketing the project. Nonetheless, instead of erecting a plaque or planting a tree to honor the  victim, things proceed as holes are dug and land is cleared.

The project’s foreman,  who thinks one of his workers died under his watch, is away trying to dry out and drowning his sorrows in self-pity and blame.

But the show must go on.

The foreman’s replacement needs some added machinery to elevate greens and tees and to excavate mounds and to dig some bunkers. He goes to the local rental place to procure a “crawler” (bulldozer). But things are not as they seem. For starters, there’s something ominous about the machine. It’s all alone, stuck in a far-flung back corner of the facility. No matter.

crawler_promoOnce the job begins, the machine suddenly burns the forearms of some of the workers, despite it being cold to the touch. It’s come alive, running over people’s feet, injecting them with goo and sprouting tentacled dozer tracks.

Soon, the original foreman returns to do battle against the machinery.

Keir Cutler is dynamite as Karl, the machine’s unlikely love interest, as is Robert Renyolds as Dover, the sagely rental guy who opines on the nature of evil.

Loads of fun on a minuscule budget.

*** (out of 5)

The Descent

the_descentThe Descent is bursting with Bechdel goodwill. But that’s neither here nor there. At the end of the day, this semi-gratifying spelunker thriller comes up short, regardless of what’s between its legs.

USA Today had an interesting take that’s more or less on-point: “For my money, [the] first 20 or so minutes are the best in the film. Once the real adventure gets underway in the cave, things get less interesting…”

Seldom is a set up as compelling as what we’re eased into here: On the return from an extreme sports adventure, there’s a grisly crash. The carnage spares Sarah (Shauna Macdonald), but kills her husband Paul and daughter Jessica.

A year later, a still-shaken Sarah ventures into the great outdoors for some dark adventures — literally — to explore caves with her mostly seasoned friends, Juno, Beth, Sam, Rebecca and newbie Holly.

They settle down to a session of carousing and boozing it up, heading out to explore once the fog of a morning hangover’s barely lifted.

One year later, Sarah and her friends Juno, Beth, Sam (MyAnna Buring), Rebecca (Saskia Mulder), and newcomer Holly (Nora-Jane Noone) are reunited at a cabin in the foothills of North Carolina for cave-exploring adventure. The next day, they hike up to a cavernous entrance and descend.

The Appalachian Mountains are a treat. It’s a darkly majestic bit of the world out there that director Neil Marshall faithfully reproduces.

As the group of friends descend into a metaphorical / literal hell, it’s claustrophobic and intense as only a cave can be, going over some of the same survivalist terrain as Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours.

The first part of The Descent is a gripping test of will, and overcoming of adversity through teamwork.

But it’s when the supernatural element rears its hissing head that this underground terror cools its jets as much of the action is shrouded in near pitch-black.

Man (or in this case woman) vs nature would’ve been plenty.

*** (out of 5)