Giant killer alligators? A Category 5 hurricane? People trapped in a flooding house while making stupid decisions? I’m there!! This basic premise makes Crawl a simple but very entertaining ride that – despite its major plot holes – makes for a surprisingly effective horror/action movie. Not for the squeamish or easily startled, Crawl delivers a great blend of tense, animalistic violence in a theater-perfect runtime of 87 minutes. I really enjoyed it. Just for the record though: alligators are scary, but Australian crocodiles are even bigger and scarier. Just saying if they make a sequel.
Directed by Alexandre Aja (Horns, The Hills Have Eyes), Crawl is set in Florida as a monster Category 5 hurricane is about to hit. Aspiring swimmer Haley Kelle (Kaya Scodelario) receives a phone call from her sister Beth (Morfydd Clark), letting her know of the approaching storm – and that she hasn’t been able to reach their father Dave (Barry Pepper). Despite the increasingly dangerous weather conditions, Haley heads out to find out why her dad isn’t answering his phone.
After ignoring the safety instructions of local law enforcement (of course), Haley eventually reaches her old home where she finds her father unconscious underneath the building in the crawlspace. It’s not long before she discovers the cause of her father’s injuries; giant killer alligators are stalking them! Worse still, time is running out as the water levels are rising as the storm worsens. They must find a way out before they drown – or before they become a hungry reptile’s next meal. Neither choice is optimal.
There’s not much to this movie and despite some of the obvious plot holes, like characters being able to utilize severely damaged limbs or the alligators delivering effective kills to support characters while being ridiculously ineffective at trying to kill the lead characters, the acting is surprisingly good for what I’d had figured was just another killer creature film.
Kaya Scodelario gives a strong performance as a young determined woman who knows how to push herself to survive – even if some of her decisions are questionable. The movie is reliant on her carrying the majority of the film and she does a fantastic job of being a leader while also being vulnerable. It’s a very physical and emotional role that Scodelario has no trouble in delivering the goods.
Barry Pepper also gives a great performance as a father whose lost everything. His wife has left him. His daughters have grown up and have their own lives. All he has are memories to look back on and reflect on his mistakes. He’s a survivor, like his daughter, and Pepper’s gritty yet emotional performance compliments perfectly with Scodelario. Despite the ridiculous situation they’re in, there are some lovely father and daughter moments between Pepper and Scodelario where they connect as they look back on what went wrong with their lives.
But not for too long! The endless barrage of giant killer alligators don’t have time for father and daughter moments while their bellies are hungry for human flesh.
Alexandre Aja delivers a very tense and violent movie on the backdrop of a natural disaster that works very well. It’s perfectly timed at 87 minutes and manages to balance slow, tense scenes with fast, energetic violence at a perfect pace. Even though there’s not much to the plot, Aja manages to fit in some amazing visuals with the catastrophic weather conditions, a lot of great looking CGI alligators and some meaningful character interaction between a father and daughter as they try to figure out how to get out alive. Sure, there’s dumb plot holes to spare, but I’m choosing to ignore them because by the time the credits rolled I felt totally satisfied.
Crawl is no-nonsense action horror worth seeing on the big screen, and may do for flooded houses and alligators what Jaws did for the ocean. It’s a visual spectacle against the forces of nature with our heroes surviving scores of giant killer alligators eating anybody in their way. Filled with many tense moments and some great action sequences (and brutal deaths), this is a perfect summer treat for moviegoers who like to see creatures do nasty things to people. This isn’t the type of movie where people go to see realism, but be warned there are some pretty brutal moments that may be too much for those a bit squeamish – and for those who are naturally afraid of the water.