From the director of The Hills Have Eyes remake, Piranha 3D and Horns comes Crawl, an understated-yet-visceral, poignant drama about family bonds – and the global warming crisis!!! – under the guise of an alligator horror movie.
Of course, I’m completely full of shit. Crawl is about as straightforward as B-flicks like this get – and you know what? I’m actually grateful for the lack of overt politicizing or forceful attempts to infuse a creature feature with relevant themes. Who wants to engage in another exercise of pedagogical finger-wagging? #NotMe. If it’s pure, dumb-as-a-croc (apologies to those hyper-intelligent creatures for the pun) escapism you’re after, then Crawl arguably packs more of a punch than the last two Jurassic Worlds combined – on a 20th of their budget.
“…they attempt to resolve their festering issues in the pits of his Florida home, whilst fighting off vicious alligators.”
Unlike Bryce Dallas Howard’s much-criticized high-heels, Kaya Scodelario’s flip-flops get swiftly ripped, as she, yes, crawls through a rapidly-flooding basement to rescue her distant father Dave (Barry Pepper). Things didn’t always use to be so tense between them – Dave was her swimming coach once, you see. (Give yourself a star if you guessed that her prowess as a swimmer might come in handy in stormy, gator-infested waters). Now they attempt to resolve their festering issues in the pits of his Florida home, whilst fighting off vicious alligators.
That’s about it in terms of plot, really. And that’s all that’s required. Granted, the script by brothers Michael and Shawn Rasmussen could’ve used some polishing. The whole father-daughter bonding reeks of the chopping room floor – or it needed to be fleshed out more, to give it at least a semblance of realism. As it stands, Barry Pepper tearing up as he atones for his sins is unintentionally laughable, unlike, say, the purposefully tongue-in-cheek humor of Piranha 3D (an underrated horror-comedy, bee-tee-dubs.)
Not that Aja doesn’t infuse plenty of wit into the tense, grisly proceedings. “Let’s get those pea-brained lizard shits!” Dave proclaims at one point (and I thought I was disrespectful to these modern-day dinosaurs). “I never thought it would end like this!” Haley cries at another, making the entire theater chuckle. Yes, no one ever really thinks their life will end in a dank, flooding basement, surrounded by ravenous reptiles – but, alas.
“If it’s pure, dumb-as-a-croc … escapism you’re after, then Crawl arguably packs more of a punch than the last two Jurassic Worlds combined…”
Whether it’s shooting an alligator through the mouth with its jaw clamped over her arm, or trapping another behind an indestructible shower panel, Scodelario carries the film with an energetic, no-holds-barred performance. She’s in almost every shot, planning out escapes and outwitting the reptiles, and she gives it her all. Pepper, on the other hand, could’ve turned it down a notch with all the hamming, his character coming off as a bit whiny and… kind of insubstantial.
But we’re not here for “substantial,” right? We’re sick of “cerebral” and are looking for “creatively, knowingly, excitingly stupid.” A guy getting torn to shreds by a pack of gators sounds awesome to us. We’re in good hands with Aja, then, and his producer, the legendary Sam Raimi (who knows a thing or two about cinematic self-awareness – and horror, of course). Seriously, if you haven’t yet – forget Lake Placid and dip your toes into those alligator-infested, turbulent waters instead.
Crawl (2019) Directed by Alexandre Aja. Written by Michael Rasmussen and Shawn Rasmussen. Starring Kaya Scodelario and Barry Pepper.
6 out of 10