CRAWL is better than it probably had any right to be. I guarantee you that this film was projected for a straight to VOD release. But then they probably test screened it for audiences, which let them know that they had something a little more special than originally intended, and at the last minute got theatrical distribution. This is the exact opposite of what should’ve happened with Stuber, but if you want my critique on that film, read my previous review I just posted a couple of hours ago. Crawl is easily the best alligator/crocodile attack film ever made, outing Lake Placid, which really wasn’t even all that great to begin with. In fact, they probably could’ve changed the title to this to Deep Blue Quarry and made it a real official sequel to Deep Blue Sea and gotten away with it, minus the chemicals that was supposed to cure Alzheimer’s and of course, the sharks. In any case, it definitely can be added to your awesome creature feature marathon you got brewing in your blu-ray case or digital collection at home.
Crawl’s premise is simple but effective. In Florida, during a large hurricane, a swimmer goes to check on her father at their old home when he doesn’t answer any of his phone calls. She finds him unconscious in the giant crawl space (after writing this sentence I finally get why they titled the movie this, I still find the title mediocre though) under the house, behind some low hanging pipes. Turns out he was attacked and was hiding from some vicious alligators that have come out of the storm to play and going behind the pipes was the only thing keeping him alive as they were too low for the alligators to crawl under and get him. But again, huge problem, there are numerous alligators everywhere, not a definite number, and could be lurking anywhere in the shadows. Not to mention, because of the hurricane, things are flooding fast, and they might not have enough room in that crawl space to breathe much longer. Obviously, the father and daughter (and their dog) need to outmaneuver them all and somehow get to oxygen and safety.
Crawl works because it is so simple. It doesn’t try to think it is smarter than its audience and bring something to its screenplay that tries to make you think, such as experimenting with sharks and their brains to make some kind of cure for Alzheimer’s. These are just regular vicious alligators in a storm, and they are either defending their territory and/or hungry, and the humans have got to escape my any means necessary. Point A straight to point C. No filler. Exactly as it should be. It also gets points but not numbering the amount of alligators in this mess. In Deep Blue Sea, there were three sharks, and the characters even counting down after each was killed, you know, just to remind the audience for some reason not to expect a random shark to come out of nowhere. But that problem is no problem in Crawl. It lets you know early on that there are plenty of alligators to go around and killing them off one by one ain’t going to do jack shit.
The film has jump scares that are actually earned, and a couple of gruesome alligator bites and kills. There are a couple of other things that makes this film stand out and save it from VOD hell. The cinematography. The cinematography in this film is absolutely gorgeous, from the dark blue and black outside shots of the storm, to the gritty darkness of giant crawl space under the house. The sets are nice and realistic, only adding that impending doom that the audience needs to feel for the characters in their predicament. Any scene in that crawl space is masterfully shot and there is one awesome scene dealing with the eye of the storm that I dare not reveal any details on here. What I am trying to say with all this is that, the film earns its scares and tense scenes, from the filmmakers paying very close attention to detail. Director Alexandre Aja has easily made his best film here, along with his classics such as High Tension and one of the only horror remakes I approved of, The Hills Have Eyes.
Oh the acting, I forgot to mention the acting. It is basically a two person show, Barry Pepper playing the father, and Kaya Scodelario as the daughter (there are others in this but they are all basically just alligator fodder). Barry Pepper is the best he has ever been here, easily. I didn’t think he could pull off playing a father, not because of his acting, but because I still think he looks young for his age, but then I looked on IMDB of the years between Pepper and Scodelario and smacked my head realizing that the filmmakers knew what they were doing. But he plays the sage father role very, very well. But the real star is Kaya Scodelario, her convincing us of the terror with her yells, shrieks, facial expressions, and determination to get out of danger. In any horror film/thriller you have got to have actors/actresses that can pull that off, and Kaya does in spades.
My only real complaint is the CGI with the alligators. While better than the SFX for Deep Blue Sea, there were only a handful of times where the alligators actually looked real and weren’t just cheesy computer generated creations. But I forgive this for three reasons. 1. Sometimes you just gotta have some cheese to have fun, that’s why Deep Blue Sea still works so well. 2. The budget, no way did they have enough money to perfect those creations. 3. There is no fucking way in hell you could train alligators to do what they do here, absolutely can’t be done. I would’ve maybe liked a few just establishing shots of real alligators in the film though, just to have that, but I realize nowadays it probably costs to do something like that and you might have your hands full with a bunch of unnecessary PETA complaints.
If you like edge of your seat creature features, Crawl easily fits the bill. It’s tense, scary, fun, and entertaining as hell. It runs a brisk 88 minutes, with no unnecessary scenes, even the ending, which I thought was going to be stretched out to hell, subverts expectations and ends when it needs to. You know what the perfect little creature feature trilogy marathon for you to watch if you have the time? Deep Blue Sea, Snakes On A Plane, and now, Crawl. Definitely going to do that once I have the chance to own it. Well done.