Just in time for Cannes, sales agent Arclight Films has picked up world rights, excluding North America, to Australian science fiction action thriller Crawlspace for its Darclight label.

Los Angeles-based XYZ Films will handle the North American release of Justin Dix’s feature debut about a group of elite soldiers who infiltrate a top-secret underground military compound only to discover that the facility is a testing ground for something far more sinister.

Dix has been providing prosthetics, animatronic characters and production design services — including to Lucasfilm on two of the films in the Star Wars franchise — through Melbourne company Wicked of Oz for about a decade.

“This is a proudly Australian film set beneath the desert but it is a very commercial idea and, though I hate to say it, it looks very American … I wanted it to look like a Ridley Scott or JJ Abrams film,” Dix told ScreenDaily. He shot the entire film in Melbourne’s main studio complex.

He showed the film in LA about three weeks ago and was delighted when Arclight rang immediately after the screening. During that trip he also got himself an agent and pitched another film which, like Crawlspace, is also “claustrophobic, military and spooky.”

The cast includes Ditch Davey (Spartacus – Vengeance), Peta Sergeant (Iron Sky), John Brumpton (The Loved Ones), Leslie Simpson (Dog Soldiers), and Amber Clayton (Three Rivers).

“Justin is a filmmaker bursting with talent and great ideas and he’s delivered a phenomenal debut film all involved are extremely proud of,” said Wolf Creek director and Crawlspace executive producer Greg Maclean, in a statement issued by Arclight today. “He’s made a seamless transition from expert special effects creator to powerful storyteller.”

Crawlspace is one of a dozen Australian films screening in the market at Cannes. Wayne Blair’s debut feature The Sapphires from Goalpost Pictures Australia is the only Australian feature in official selection – it has an out-of-competition midnight spot – and Yardbird is in competition in the shorts program.