“Crawl” Movie Review


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     Who knew this summer’s best reptile film wouldn’t be “Godzilla: King of the Monsters”, but instead the thrill ride “Crawl” made for less than ten percent of the cost, while being significantly more effective as pure entertainment.  Directed by Alexandre Aja, “Crawl” combines the tropes of your standard Roland Emmerich disaster tale, think “2012” or “The Day After Tomorrow”, with the pulse pounding suspense of ‘Jaws”, swapping the shark for a hungry band of crocodiles.  Given the low budget, the entire story takes place on a less epic scale, but that doesn’t stop Aja and his screenwriters, Michael & Shawn Rasmussen from delivering the kind of film that fits nicely with similar fare such as 2016’s “The Shallows”.  Proving yet again substance trumps budget.

     “Crawl” serves as an excellent vehicle for Kaya Scodelario, known primarily for her role in “The Maze Runner” trilogy, and allows the up and coming actress to bite into a lead role in which her performance carries the film.  She’s backed capably by veteran actor Barry Pepper, as the two find themselves in a dire situation of survival against both mother nature and the aforementioned crocs who have decided to join the party.  With the action confined primarily to the inside of a house, the filmmakers effectively create a claustrophobic horror film feel where the characters are trapped and have no ideal means of escape.  Safety means going through the obstacles in front of them.  There is no avoiding the danger.

     Haley (Kaya Scodelario) is a member of the Florida Gators swim team, having achieved her success through the constant coaching her father, Dave (Barry Pepper), provided from an early age.  Her family has recently endured the trauma of divorce, with her mother moving on with someone else and her father left to grieve, wondering how everything went wrong.  As a Category 5 hurricane approaches the southern Florida town her father resides in, Haley is notified by her sister that she cannot reach their father and worries he may not be leaving in spite of the warnings of the coming storm.  If “Crawl” has an underlying subtext, it’s a cautionary tale about heeding the order to evacuate when a major hurricane is on your doorstep.  If this isn’t an effective warning, I don’t know what else would be.

     Haley goes looking for her father and ultimately finds him in the home he was supposed to sell, the home she grew up in.  But the hurricane has already begun to flood the area, as winds begin to knock down trees, and water steadily rises, submerging vehicles and forcing everyone in the area to desperately flee for safety.  When Haley discovers her father in the basement of their former home, he is unconscious and severely injured.  Something has attacked him, but what?  Haley finds out quickly they are not alone in the basement as two crocodiles have taken up residence and do not seem to have plans for leaving anytime soon.

     The next hour is a simple fight for survival.  The water level continues to rise as it pours into the basement and turns the immediate area into a makeshift reptile tank where a multitude of these creatures seem to be lurking around every corner.  They have no way to communicate their situation to anyone who could help them and they can’t simply hide and wait the storm out.  It’s a classic case of man and woman versus beast with only each other to depend on, as there are no weapons or resources available to assist them.  And that’s where the film succeeds, since the obvious solutions are never in play, forcing the characters to use ingenuity that is not easily predicted by the audience.  What does that translate into?  Legitimate white knuckle suspense that has allowed people to use “Crawl” in the same sentence as “Jaws”.

     The melding of genres here serves as a consistent and effective one-two punch, giving the audience exactly the kind of thrills many of this summer’s franchise entries failed to do.  There’s a freshness within “Crawl” that can’t be denied when you have not one, but two looming threats to the survival of just two main characters and there doesn’t seem to be an obvious solution to their disintegrating situation.  In other words, you will never presume either of these characters will be breathing five minutes from now.  And that’s a trick not often pulled off in these times where many people’s criticism consistently devolves into vitriol when a filmmaker doesn’t tell the story they would’ve told.  “Crawl” avoids that by defying what is expected and moving the story along in what ever way our toothy antagonists determine, as the full force of a hurricane turns what was once a quiet neighborhood into their own private hunting aquarium.  It’s as plausible as it is frightening.  GRADE: B