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Ben Nagy reviews ‘Crawler’: Snake alien with arms facepalms Maryland people to death

In his 60 years here on this planet, Baltimore-area director Don Dohler also had his eyes on the stars.

The filmmaker ignored budgetary and regional limitations and ended up producing 14 flicks in addition to directing 11 of em — mostly science fiction and monster flicks — including Alien Factor, Alien Factor 2 and Nightbeast — that reflected those flicks he enjoyed in his formative years when he ravenously consumed Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine.

Dohler later produced his own magazine, Cinemagic, until he sold it off in the 1970s. Later on, he got back into the realm of dead trees by co-founding another magazine called Movie Club.

Joe Bob reviewed three of Dohler’s flicks in the days when he was doing his column for UPI — Harvesters, Stakes and Vampire Sisters — that have a mean average of 2.5 stars among them. The first one is a menaced-by-backwoods hicks flick while the other two deal with female vampires, terrestrial and otherwise, who pop their tops on a regular basis, all with a budget of about 25 cents apiece (at least that’s what Joe Bob wrote).

According to the biography on his website, Dohler actually hated directing. So he handed those chores to Joe Ripple and concentrated on producing until Dohler’s untimely death from cancer in 2006.

Their last such collaboration was the flick, Crawler, which was produced in 2004, and has this alien snake creature with clawed arms coming out of its meteor spaceship then attacking folks in the woods of Perry Hall, Maryland, a bit northeast of Baltimore with a population of 26,000, according to the 2010 U.S. Census.

These military folks wander around in dark and light trying to recreate scenes from "Predator" in the Maryland regional flick "Crawler."
These military folks wander around in dark and light trying to recreate scenes from “Predator” in the Maryland regional flick “Crawler.” (Screen capture from DVD by reviewer Ben Nagy)

Right after the meteor hits the ground, these three guys in fatigues show up for the first of about 97 scenes in the hour and 24 minute flick where they traipse through the woods with guns drawn like Elmer Fudd looking for Xtro. In the internal chronology of the flick, they do this for at least two days and three nights with no bathroom breaks and interspersed with clever hand signals.

In one scene, they set up camcorders and electric nets and point guns at woodland creatures that are eating foliage while following “standard rules of engagement,” meaning that the boss at HQ wants the alien alive. The sergeant guy responds with “Alive, if possible, over, Delta Mary Foxtrot.”

“Delta Mary Foxtrot” is an acronym for “dead Montego flounder,” an agent explains helpfully, except she doesn’t say “Montego flounder” and when it comes down to it, the soldiers are being a bit insubordinate to the boss agent guy by saying that.

Ben Nagy reviews ‘Crawler’: Snake alien with arms facepalms Maryland people to death 1
Don Dohler and Joe Ripple’s version of alienvision as the creature from “Crawler” stalks some prey in the flick “Crawler.” (Screen capture from DVD by reviewer Ben Nagy).

So while those guys wander around, the alien scoots around with its red-hued alien vision killing dogs and facepalming women to death. Eventually the alien diversifies both its victims and method of dispatch and begins to eat people’s faces off, dragging topless women under beds and so on.

The heroes are these three space nerds who hang out in a room decorated in early 1990s Fox Mulder – Paul (he’s the tall guy), Shelly (she’s the girl) and Ron “Dipper” (he’s the doofus who’s not as smart as the other two and says some nonsense about there being a black hole somewhere above Orion’s belt, which in anatomical terms would probably be Orion’s navel).

Ben Nagy reviews ‘Crawler’: Snake alien with arms facepalms Maryland people to death 2
UFO nerds, from left, Paul (Justin Timpane), Shelly (Darla Albornoz) and Ron “Dipper” (Daniel Ross) looks at their latest astronomical triumph in “Crawler. (Screen capture from DVD by reviewer Ben Nagy)

They rent a telescope for $3,000 for 15 seconds of scope time and see the meteor descend. They eagerly seek advice from their fellow nerds in the so-called “UFO Brotherhood” on what to do and decide to go on the hunt for the meteorite.

Meanwhile, the alien slithers and around and kills more people around the town, the government’s going to use the UFO nerds for bait for this “reptilian Great White shark” and those guys in the fatigues keep wandering around until all the characters get in the woods to get chased by the alien.

Ben's Bloody Best
Ben Nagy reviews ‘Crawler’: Snake alien with arms facepalms Maryland people to death 3
Camper Steve (Art Hall) goes from potentially having the night of his life on a camping trip with his girlfriend to being chucked up and kilt in a tree in “Crawler.” (Screen capture from DVD by reviewer Ben Nagy).

Best Pre-Coital Ritual: Camper Steve says “giddyup” when his girlfriend goes into the tent to “get ready,” then goes to take a leak.

Best Chase: A Honda mid-compact driven by the UFO dorks vs. a red minivan driven by the agents.

Best Show of Force: “Dipper” grabs a wrench or something, bangs it against the concrete parking lot and says “You want some of this? C’mon!”

Best Way of Interrupting a Phone Call: The alien drags Shelly’s cousin Jenny, who has a couple of tattoos and just got done taking a shower, under her bed and then eats her all up except for an arm.

Ben Nagy reviews ‘Crawler’: Snake alien with arms facepalms Maryland people to death 4
The alien is about ready to eat the face off of the sheriff (George Stover) in “Crawler,” but then the filmmakers really skimped on the blood spatter until later on. (Screen capture from DVD by reviewer Ben Nagy).

Best Way to Save on Your Budget: They really skimped on the fake blood on a couple of kills. When one guy gets his face impaled by the alien, just three or four drops of blood are shown falling on the carpet and then there’s a cutaway, which is an absolute crime. I don’t know if it was the editor’s fault or the director’s fault or if they didn’t have another bottle of ketchup available since they used more blood on the shower girl. But listen — if you are a low-budget filmmaker who is committed to your craft, you go over to the neighbor’s house, borrow a bottle and then squeeze more blood onto the carpet. Or you send someone over to McDonald’s or Arby’s or somewhere who sells fast-food fries and get ketchup there. YOU DON’T EVEN HAVE TO BUY FRIES. If you have enough gas, then you go to the dollar store and get one of those squirt bottles, use water to thin the ketchup and then do that. They eventually showed a bloody corpse with a ripped-off face, but it was too late to undo the damage. Go big or go home right when the character gets killed. Then we know what the person who discovers the body is screaming at!

Best Bureaucrat Promoting the Presidential Fitness Award: The colonel/head agent guy tells the UFO nerds: ”Maybe you should try jogging instead of video games and potato chips.”

Two stars.

The flick’s available on physical media from oldies.com for $7.10. Check it out!

Shameless Buckeye State plug department

And speaking of regional film moguls, Ricky Glore, the Cincitucky comedian who’s the mastermind of the middle-aged slasher flick All Your Friends are Dead that I reviewed last summer has an Indiegogo crowd-funding project going on for his new project.

Sweet Meats is a cannibal musical featuring a country singer/restauranteur named Bobby Sweet who’s taken a page out of the Rory Calhoun Motel Hell meat-processing manual. Glore is putting together the budgetary equivalent of what one of Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow’s insoles costs to put together a gruesome flick and have noted thespian Lloyd Kaufman be in it as well.

If you want to help him out and see the perks out there (including getting murdered in the flick), pay a visit to the Indiegogo page.

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