Let’s be honest, it’s hard to enter the new movie “Crawl” without some level of snark and skepticism. I mean we are talking about people being terrorized by man-eating alligators during a Category 5 hurricane. On concept alone it would be easy to dismiss as a throwaway B-movie maybe worth renting after you’ve seen everything else in your local Redbox.
But oh how I love it when a movie surprises me. “Crawl” has no ambitions of being anything other than what it is. It just does what it does incredibly well. It’s a tightly-wound, no-nonsense thriller; a throwback creature-feature that utilizes every second of its lean 88-minute runtime.
The first hint that this could actually be pretty good was seeing Sam Raimi’s name attached. He produces alongside the film’s writer/director Alexandre Aja. Their story is light but their characters are given a surprising amount of depth considering how much time they spend in peril. Family dynamics are laid out and we get enough personal stakes to make us genuinely care about them.
Kaya Scodelario drives the movie with an intensely committed lead performance. She plays Haley, a swimmer for the University of Florida who gets a call from her concerned sister who hasn’t been able to reach their father (played by Barry Pepper). He isn’t answering his phone and with a massive hurricane bearing down his window to evacuate is shrinking.
Haley agrees to check on her dad before she leaves town. She discovers him injured in a crawlspace underneath their old family lake house. It doesn’t take long for her to find out what caused his injury – a massive alligator under the house lurking in the shadows. Trapped there with her father, a growing number of gators, and rising flood waters from the hurricane sets the table for a tension-soaked (and sometimes bloody) survival-horror thrill ride.
One of the first things to impress me was Aja’s camera particularly when shooting in tight spaces. For a movie like this it’s imperative that the audience feel they are in those spaces with the characters. The danger needs to feel palpable. Aja’s camera pulls us in with great effect whether he’s shooting in claustrophobic spaces below the house or giving us tense underwater shots. Combine that with fantastic work from production designer Alan Gilmore who offers up some visually impressive and thoroughly convincing storm effects.
“Crawl” works well because it embraces its simplicity and sticks to its premise. There’s no needless filler or pointless melodrama. Instead we get exciting thrills, economic storytelling, and just enough character development to make us care. And with such good visual technique and devoted central performances, you can’t help but be immersed regardless of how silly the whole thing sounds.
VERDICT – 4 STARS
I loved the film Alligator from the 80s I think. Will try to check this out but have two kids under three so am averaging barely two films a year and haven’t been to the cinema since becoming a parent… soon though!
I remember seeing that film on TV as a kid and it still sticks with me. Wasn’t there a scene where the alligator attacks an outdoor wedding? 🙂
Crawl is a much tighter thriller. I’ll be honest, I was really surprised at how well made it is. Hope you can see it soon. But I completely understand how parenting cuts into free time!
Yeah there may have been a wedding. There was definitely people losing their legs and failing to get out of the sewer!
For sure! And I think it all began with flushing a baby alligator down the toilet.
I’ll give it a shot on a Saturday Night Happy night!
You really should. It was actually a really nice surprise. I wasn’t expecting much but it turned out to be a lot of fun.
I’ll wait for it on TV as I’m sure it’s fun.
It’s worth catching up to. I think a lot of people wrote it off (like I almost did). Be surprisingly it’s a fun, straight-forward thriller. I think you’ll get a kick out of it.
Maybe not the best movie this summer, but the one I enjoyed the most while watching it.
It was a lot of fun, wasn’t it? Easily one of the nicest surprises of the summer. I do hope more people will go see it.
Great and surprising review! This is possibly the most positive thoughts I’ve read about this movie! I’ll keep it in mind should I get the chance to see this movie in the future!
It is a surprisingly good time. I just checked Rotten Tomatoes and it’s sitting at 83%! I don’t know if anyone saw that coming. It’s such a silly premise on the surface, but they really do a good job of making a genuinely fun and tense thriller.
I think this is something I’ll definitely rent. Great review!
I think most people slept on this movie probably because the concept is so silly. But it’s well done top to bottom. I’m hoping word-of-mouth will get more people to the theater.
A movie I’m definitely interested in! I like “creature feature” survival horror thrillers.
You’ll have a lot of fun with this one. Tense and very well made.