I went into Crawl with limited expectations. All I wanted was some cheap jump scares and some gator mayhem and I got just that. But Crawl is a horror movie that is focused on far more than just cheap scares and alligators. This is a relentless, claustrophobic thriller that deals with family drama and believing in yourself.
Crawl takes us to Florida as a Category 5 hurricane is about to hit. Haley (Kaya Scodelario), a swimmer at the University of Florida, gets a phone call from her sister saying she hasn’t heard from their father (Barry Pepper) in awhile. Though it brings her closer to the eye of the hurricane, Haley drives two hours to see if her father is okay. She finds him in the crawlspace of her childhood home unconscious and bleeding, and when she tries to drag him out, she finds out there are a couple alligators roaming around down there. With the hurricane getting stronger and more alligators appearing, Haley and her father must figure out a way to get out of the crawlspace without getting eaten and without drowning.
Director Alexandre Aja took a film that sounds like a Sci-Fi Channel original movie, a la Sharknado, and made it a smart, thrilling, legitimate horror film. Keeping the film only in the crawlspace is really unnerving and suspenseful. The crawlspace isn’t that big and these alligators are big and showing up in numbers, along with the crawlspace flooding at a rapid pace, so you are constantly on edge the whole movie. Aja perfectly times the alligator attacks. He doesn’t over use them, but he utilizes them in a way that always surprises us. Much like the characters in the film, we have no idea where these alligators are and are terrified as they slowly slither throw the water and pop out when we don’t expect it. Aja cuts this terror with a nice family story and character piece about believing in yourself. This is one of those movies where all the drama between Haley and her father comes to a head in this exact moment and he tries to teach her life lessons as she’s swimming amongst alligators, and though a bit cheesy, I didn’t mind it and thought it worked for the movie.
This is one of the more Floridian movies I have ever seen, and what I mean by that is that there are things that happen that, due to the reputation of the state of Florida with “Florida Man” and other bizarre news stories, only make sense if the film was set in Florida. For one, the gators. If this film had taken place in any other state, except for maybe Louisiana or Alabama, it would seem preposterous and silly. But because the film is set in Florida, I kept thinking, “yeah, alligators are an issue there. This would probably happen.” But it was also the little things, like Haley knowing how to operate a boat without thinking or knowing how to handle gun without any hesitation. We don’t get any backstory about where she learned how to use a gun or how she learned to operate a boat on whim, she just knows how to do it and I imagine that is because of her Florida roots.
At a tight 87 minutes, Crawl is a relentless water monster movie. Though the premise might seem dumb, the direction from Aja keeps the film thrilling, fun, and believable. In a summer bogged down by mediocre sequels and franchise, Crawl is the answer to those films and gives a fun, scary, summer gem.
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