Directed by Alexandre Aja.
Starring Kaya Scodelario, Barry Pepper, Ross Anderson, Morfydd Clark, Jose Palma, and Anson Boon.
When high-school swimmer Hayley (Kaya Scodelario) attempts to check up on her father during the onset of a Stage 5 hurricane, she ends up trapped in their family home as the tide rises, and the local alligators prepare for a feeding frenzy.
The last time Switchblade Romance director Alexandre Aja put a family unit through the wringer, it resulted in the terrifying The Hills Have Eyes remake. This action-packed alligator-assault is a rather different proposition, fully embracing the B-movie ludicrousness of the concept, and colouring the water with a more diluted kind of blood than his gruesome past efforts.
Crawl would sit nicely alongside Blake Lively shark thriller The Shallows in a double-bill creature feature: both focus on a strong female lead coming to terms with the breakdown of their family unit, who’re thrown into a confrontation with one of Earth’s oldest living creatures. In this instance it’s an endless stream of snap-happy alligators trying to chomp down on a father/daughter pairing.
Ensuring that we don’t root for the assorted alligator mississippiensis because the human characters are unlikeable, Aja positions Maze Runner’s Kaya Scodelario in-front of numerous snapping jaws. She might be burdened with some clunky dialogue, which to-be-honest feels right for this kind of monster-mash, but she employs a tough-as-nails physicality which makes her easy to root for as she vaults pipes, dodges gators, and at one point shoots a loaded gun while her arm is inside the mouth of her scaly assailant.
She’s offered able support by the perennially underrated Barry Pepper, who gives good gruff as her former swimming coach and equally erstwhile father. Both fall into the stupid decisions in horror movies category of characters, but they play it with a straight face and give it their all, which ultimately pays off in terms of whether you care if they end up in an alligator roll or not.
However, you don’t come to a film about a reptile-rampage for Shakespearean monologues, so what of the beasts? Aja uses the alligators for almost every kind of set-piece imaginable. The strongest section is the basement based one-on-one, where sound-editing and tension is key, as our protagonists play what feels like the deadliest Crystal Maze game of-all-time in the claustrophobic surroundings. As is the way with sure fare, escalation is demanded, so Crawl builds to a CGI maelstrom that lacks the subtlety of the set-up, but we get some fun Jaws-riffs, a tense Aliens-style tunnel escape, and plenty of gruey deaths along the way.
Possibly Crawl’s greatest strength is in knowing not to outstay its welcome. At just under 90mins, a blessed rarity in these days of’ ‘bloatbusters’, it wraps up its incredibly fun, but ultimately slight narrative just as it threatens to run out of ideas.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film ★ ★ ★ / Movie ★ ★ ★
Matt Rodgers – Follow me on Twitter