There was once a time when big studios, in the middle of the traditional summer box office season, would drop a movie or two that was meant to be a horror-laden thrill ride. It’s something we haven’t seen much of in the modern era, and when it happens, it’s usually from a smaller indie studio looking to capture a wave of big time buzz.
All of that is about to change, as Crawl has the backing of a major studio like Paramount, but acts like one of those indies people love to rave about. And people should definitely be raving about this one, as director Alexandre Aja makes his return to the horror genre with a film so lean and mean, it could be part of the pack of alligators it uses as its villains.
Crawl sets its stage around Haley (Kaya Scodelario), a woman who decides to travel to her family’s former home, in a Category 5 hurricane. She does this to make sure that her estranged father (Barry Pepper) is safe, after failing to respond to any of her or her sister’s phone calls.
Before she can say “chomp,” she’s thrown into a dangerous situation, as she’s stuck underneath the family home, injured alongside her father, and trying to escape the deadly threat of an alligator that’s found its way into that same space.
If the description of Crawl sounds a bit spartan, it’s because the film clocks in at a running time of 87 minutes. What this means in terms of how the film plays to its audience is that instead of a film that has its traditional lulls and exposition, Crawl is stripped down and built for speed.
At the same time, Alexandre Aja’s direction from the script penned by Michael and Shawn Rassmussen loads in enough background details to get into the story of the film, without having an ounce of fat that feels out of place.
Every moment has its place and every aspect of Crawl’s entirety is plotted with a meticulous eye that some wouldn’t expect from a film with a logline such as this. It’s part of what makes this film one of this summer’s greatest surprises, as it subverts expectations at every turn and proves that it’s indeed a product of Alexandre Aja’s keen direction and Sam Raimi’s talent for nurturing such films out of cutting edge directors.
With that in mind, audiences should be prepared to see a lot of Barry Pepper and Kaya Scodelario, as Crawl is mostly made up of their performances, with CGI gators and a very real dog to accompany them. Their dynamic as cinematic father and daughter is something to truly behold, as the relationship is one where two strong people are relying on each other in the worst scenario possible.
Haley goes to save her father because she truly cares, and in turn he pushes her to do her best because he knows she’s capable. Neither party launches into overly sentimental territory, but both are allowed to be simultaneously vulnerable and capable of survival.
Let it be known that both members of Crawl’s on-screen family get to battle it out with alligators in fierce and bloody combat. Scodelario and Pepper, in their own individual face offs with their natural predators, are put through the ringer; and the outcome isn’t always ensured to be a pleasant one.
Their characters definitely need that strength they display in the world of Crawl, as the creatures they face, as well as the natural disaster they’re occupying throughout the film, are both relentless and vicious. Horror fans and natural disaster aficionados are going to love the paces that this flick puts its characters through.
Blood runs red in clear and murky waters, with animal and human taking some pretty nasty damage through the course of Crawl’s visceral journey through the storm. It needs to be reiterated that this film is so tightly wound, the scares and the attacks are never gratuitous.
The summer box office is always in need of fun, entertaining thrill rides like Crawl. It’s a film that plays a tight game, thrilling its audience with a quick and nasty electric shock of danger, and it does so without pulling any punches. Should you be in the mood for excitement and adventure, while at the same time taking a break from the fairly safe crowd of similar would-be blockbusters, Crawl is the cinematic wakeup call you need to get your summer going in style.