Alexandre Aja is back! The French director best known for his gloriously gory remake of The Hills Have Eyes, is delivering another creature feature, after trying out this genre with a bit more humour back in 2010 by remaking Piranha. Crawl is nothing like Piranha 3D. It’s a viciously claustrophobic thriller, full of surprises.
Competitive swimmer Haley Keller (Kaya Scodelario), just finished training at a Florida University, gets a concerned call from her sister, not knowing a hurricane shifted its route and is headed for their hometown. Worrying, but not very concerned, about her semi-estranged father (Barry Pepper), she decides to check in on him. Arriving at his place, she finds dog Sugar all by herself and decides to go look for her dad. After being told to flee the area by concerned police officers, she ignores the warning and goes to her childhood home where she soon crawls underneath the house to find her father unconscious, with a deadly alligator blocking their way out.
Most of the film takes place in the crawlspace underneath the house, as Haley and her handyman dad manoeuvre themselves into dark corners where the hungry gator can’t get into. But time is running out fast in swampy Florida with water levels rising, and trying to stay ahead of the cellar getting flooded. This is where the film is at its strongest and intense with some seriously graphic scenes, one including a wrench. Aja knows just how to use this compact location with bricks, pipes and rat traps as unexpected weapons against the big bad. Haley crawls and swims through mud and faeces to outsmart her enemy. This is just asking for infections – if she survives…
Running just under 90 minutes, the pace is just right to establish the daughter-father relationship between Haley and Dave, without going off the rails by boring the audience – the main focus is still alligators chasing after humans. Don’t worry, the dialogue is supposed to be a little bit cheesy and the dry sense of humour helps us remind that this is supposed to be a fun little genre flick to pass the time. Scodelario and Pepper deliver above average performances, which is, when you see the film, impressive to say the least. They’re acting in the water for almost the entire film and that needs to be applauded.
While being stuck down there, figuring out how they’ll ever escape the luring looks of the menacing predator, they try to get people’s attention on the outside. A “clawful” of supporting characters basically get used as bait to divert attention of our main father/daughter-duo. This makes for great gory action sequences that will make you jump out of your seat.
The entire first act forebodes what is yet to come, but what mostly stands out is Maxime Alexandre‘s cinematography. Especially his underwater shots and the way scriptwriters Michael and Shawn Rasmussen use the storm as an additional important character, is just phenomenal. It delivers an extra sense of tension and heightens the despair on survival. Our main characters have to work with the storm or die in the jaws of these prehistoric reptiles.
You could say Crawl does for alligators what Jaws did for sharks. The alligators are all CGI, but the CGI looks very realistic. Big expensive blockbusters, take notes – apparently this film was only made on a $17 million budget and that’s impressive. The darker scenes make these creatures even scarier, especially when they move so smoothly in the water to jump out and chew limbs off. Aja guarantees for some bloody bone crushing scenes, without utilising jump scares for the sake of cheap thrills.
This is the northern hemispheric summer blockbuster we’ve been waiting for and saves these dull months, from being completely boring. Go see it on the largest screen with the biggest crowd possible. Crawl sinks its teeth into you and doesn’t let go.
Crawl is playing in cinemas now.
Review by Seth Eelen