Italian killer trees horror movie
Trivia Also released as Troll III, bizarrely.
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The Crawlers (1990)
29th Aug 07
In a sleepy U.S. rural town, a pervy driver gives a busty teen hitchhiker a lift but, after coming on too strong (“You like music? I bet you’d like something else, wouldn’t you? I’m gonna stick it to you!”), he gets dragged to his doom by an unseen menace. It transpires that radioactive waste from the local Nuclear power plant has been callously dumped in the forest, creating unnaturally violent and aggressive behaviour amongst the tree root population. The local young folks cotton on to what’s going on but - surprise! - have a hard time convincing a hilariously skeptical Sheriff, who acts like Chief Wiggum and refuses to believe anything (typical response : “I think you kids went up in to the woods and snorted sumthin’ you bought in big city!”).
Life is cheap, toilet paper is expensive…and movies about homicidal trees are thin on the ground. Which is not to say horror history is without moments of tree terror : one of the few scenes of genuine fright in Tobe Hooper’s Poltergeist involves the juvenile hero being captured by the malevolent, towering tree that seems to ominously observe him from outside his bedroom window. While most of The Evil Dead is a fun splatter romp with rotting tongue firmly in cheek, subsequently director Sam Raimi has displayed a virtually apologetic attitude for its most extreme and serious horror sequence : cinema history’s first (and last?) graphic tree rape, complete with penetration shot that for a long time was censored by the UK’s spoil-sport censors. (The late, not-really-missed BBFC head honcho James Ferman was allegedly sodomised by a tree as a child and feared copy-cat violence if he passed the movie unscathed).
All of which misty-eyed reflection brings us to The Crawlers, a one-off novelty from director Fabrizio Laurenti, wisely hiding under the moniker of “Martin Newlin”. It has emerged in certain territories under the titles Creepers, Contamination and, most bizarrely of all, Troll III. Rife with delightful 80’s music, computers and haircuts, it is arguably the finest movie to ever boast the credit “Costumes by Laura Gemser”. What next? “Production Design by Dyanne Thorne”? “Conceptual Art Designed by Sylvia Kristel”?!
The deadly slow pace of this jaw-droopingly useless but off-the-scale funny movie is matched by the r-e-a-l-l-y s-l-o-w line delivery of most of the actors, who also tend to speak with many dramatic… pauses. Filling out the running time and adding to the fun factor are an array of goofy false scares, sappy romantic interludes and the frustrating on-going adventures of the town’s one and only hooker, an overweight middle aged woman who can make the line “It happens to lots of guys” sound unusually sincere.
The Crawlers would play superbly to a liquored-up late night film festival crowd. Abysmal grocery store muzak accompanies inept tree attacks. A car chase gets underway in full sunlight and is still in progress when the movie cuts to night-time soon after. The direlogue, at best, has a 50’s creature feature vibe : “Kruger…these plants are carnivorous…” / “I don’t know how to explain the killer roots….I’m not a micro biologist!”.
The main human villain has one great extended maniacal laughter outburst that wouldn’t be out of place in an Austin Powers sequel. One action set piece incorporates a howlingly obvious exploding toy helicopter shot that someone somewhere presumably thought could fool an audience. And some of the reaction shots during attempts at sincere drama take the movie into high-camp territory. (Talking of camp, the guy who saves the day with diggers during the climax looks and acts like he should be playing the gay neighbour in a 70’s British shitcom).
Save for a bravura moment in which the Sheriff deservedly gets his head perforated by roots, there’s almost no gore, but the entertainment value is high, and sustains itself right to the very funny epilogue involving, naturally, an aggressive Christmas tree. The Crawlers, of course, is for life, not just for sporadic Sci-Fi Channel showings in the middle of the night.
Versions Not available on DVD for no love nor money. We're desperately hunting for a DVDR copy now, if anyone has one please, please get in touch. Please, please.