If you look somewhere near the intersection of a disaster movie and a horror flick you’ll find Crawl, directed by Alexandra Aja, who is probably best known to American audiences for his work on the remake of Wes Craven‘s The Hills Have Eyes. We’re always up for a good underwater scare, and though that usually means sharks we still had high hopes for Crawl. Time to see if it lived up to our expectations or if it should be flushed into the sewer.
After finishing up her swim practice at the University of Florida, Haley (Kaya Scodelario; Maze Runner) gets a call from her sister. She’s been unable to reach their dad (Barry Pepper; Saving Private Ryan), who lives in a coastal town in the path of a Category 5 hurricane. Against her sister’s wishes and the instructions of local law enforcement, Haley drives down to check on him. Unable to locate him at his apartment, she drives to her childhood home where she eventually finds him unconscious under the house.
As Haley attempts to move him she finds she’s not alone as a large alligator emerges, forcing her to backtrack and drag her dad to safety behind some piping. She’s able to revive her dad, who has suffered a laceration and a broken leg, and the two begin trying to figure out how to get out of the crawlspace. Haley’s next attempt ends badly when a second alligator gets a hold of her, opening up her leg in the process.
With no obvious means of escape and no way to contact anyone, the pair must also contend with another problem as the hurricane is driving down rain and starting to flood the crawlspace. Now under extreme time pressure to find a way out or drown, Haley must rely on her ability as a swimmer to escape the alligators and rescue her wounded father.
At less than 90 minutes, Crawl doesn’t waste a lot of time. Outside of the opening scene at a pool and the drive down, everything is contained within the house and focuses almost exclusively on Haley and Dave. The duo handle their roles effectively, showing their love for one another in a trying time but also expressing frustration with what led them to this point. It helps build a bond where you want to see them escape.
Kaya Scodelario undoubtedly handles the heavy lifting, though. With her father incapacitated she’s left to do all the physical work, displaying an endearing mix of determination, fear and frustration as she tries to get out of an impossible situation. It’s hard to say if anyone else in that role would’ve fared as well. It’s good casting.
We’ve been subjected to plenty of bad CGI gators over the years — seriously, if you’ve never seen the alligator attack in Eraser, watch it — but the ones here looked dangerous and creepy, which was important since poorly constructed gators would’ve killed the mood. Instead they create a constant menace that movies like Lake Placid never could, only adding the occasional human character as gator chow to remind you of the stakes.
If anything, the gators are almost too lethal. Everyone other than the main two characters enters and exits the film incredibly fast. Ostensibly they’re there to offer aid, at least potentially, but in practice they’re only there to be ripped apart to add more bloodshed. The group of looters that meets an untimely demise could’ve been made scummier to produce some level of satisfaction in their deaths. Instead everyone comes across as hapless. Also, those CGI spiders looked awful.
THE BONUS FEATURES
There’s a robust making-of featurette and secondary look at the CGI that combine for almost 40 minutes of extra content, which is roughly half the length of the feature. A conceptualized and animated alternate opening is worth watching, if only to see what a much better decision they made to stick with what they had. Around six minutes of deleted and extended scenes add very little other a little insight into Haley’s struggles in the morning swim relay.
If you’re looking for some good, white-knuckle scares and close calls that won’t tax your brain or demand much of your time, Crawl definitely fits the bill.