Wicked Wednesday: Crawlspace (1972)

Somehow, even weeks later, am still in a big movie slump. I have turned my mind to cotton candy by watching endless amounts of trashy television instead. But if there’s one thing I will never say no to, it’s a made-for-TV movie.

I have a big fear of people being inside my home without my knowledge. At night, I think about the Daniel LaPlante case all too much. One of my sisters lives in one of those older houses with the attic door inside the house and it terrifies me. If you stay quiet, you can hear rattling up there. It makes me run like a little girl every time.

When I saw the synopsis for Crawlspace, I was expecting something more sinister. Something that would only fuel my nightmares. But instead, this made-for-TV movie is more about the players in the tragedy.

Alice and Albert Graves are an older couple, recently moves to the countryside from the city. They’re a lonely pair, so when they meet their handyman Robert, they invite him for dinner one night.

A few nights later, they realise that Robert is living in their crawlspace below the house. The odd man initially keeps his distance, but Albert and Alice continue to try and coax him out. They begin to see him as a son they never had but always wanted.

At Christmas, Robert eventually accepts a second dinner invitation and arrives in a suit bought just for him. The Graves are pleased, and they welcome him into their home, even though he still prefers his crawlspace.

When Robert is spotted around the Graves’ homes, the locals begin to talk. The local sheriff stops by, warning the Graves that Robert isn’t to be trusted. But Alice and Albert ignore the warnings, insisting that Robert is just a misunderstood boy.

It’s unclear what exactly is wrong with Robert if anything (though he does sort of look like the Wolfman). His odd behaviour seems to be enough to fuel the locals’ distaste for him.

Things escalate with Robert and the locals as they begin to egg each other on. Robert vandalises a store. Some local boys begin harassing the Graves at their home in return.

But it’s after this that things begin to get really tragic. The movie is hardly a horror movie. It’s really just a sad tale about a group of people who make a lot of really bad choices in the name of protecting each other.

I wish we got to know a little more about Robert’s background. There are a few hints in the objects we see in his crawlspace. As he’s not much of a communicator, there’s never a real chance for him to explain his life. Despite my desire to know more, I do think that having a mystique around him does mean that it’s up to the viewer to decide whether or not Robert was acting in good faith.

This was a nice, sad little TV movie. I think it’s not very flashy by any means, but it does tell a good story and has a great cast. Arthur Kennedy as Albert and Teresa Wright as Alice were both so compelling and believable.

If you really want to ruin any holiday cheer in the air, this is a great, stark tale with a bit of a wintery feel.

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