Featuring floodwater, hurricanes, and rampant alligator attacks, Crawl is a film based on the most frightening of all prospects: living in Florida.
Here is the extent of what Crawl is about: A woman and her father get trapped in their house during a hurricane, and as the floodwaters rise, vicious alligators swarm the house.
Crawl is indeed not much of a movie and could have (and was expected to have) been so much worse, if handled by an incompetent development team. Luckily, director Alexandre Aja and producer Sam Raimi were the perfect fits for this project. Both of them understand that horror and comedy are actually very close on the same spectrum, and that, if handled properly, both emotions can be enhanced by interspersing them with each other. Think of Raimi’s Evil Dead series, or his Spider-Man 3, in which horror and comedy lived side by side. Aja might be a less familiar name, but his work on Piranha 3D and Horns shows that he also understands that this careful balance to be maintained.
And the premise here is patently ridiculous: the alligators are nowhere close to being believable in terms of both size, behavior and intelligence. The CGI is also a bit wonky in places. It’s all a bit silly, but the jump scares are perfectly positioned to get the best reactions from the audience. When people get eaten or bitten, the film doesn’t shy away from the gore, without going overboard.
Luckily, the cast are up for the task set to them – most of the film is just Haley (Scodelario) and father Dave (Pepper) and having two of them to act against each other, or at least have someone to talk to, works better than in similar movies of this nature. Both of the actors do a fine job with what they’re given.
After the initial set up, in which we learn enough about our characters (the parents are divorced, Haley has a strained relationship with her father, she is an expert swimmer), the pieces are in motion and keep going until the end. The initial setting is the crawl space under the house, but as the water rises, so too does the characters, until they are on the roof of their house. Its an organic kind of progression, and while the crawlspace sections are the best, learning the geography of the house throughout the film is fun too.
At 87 minutes, this is a feature film with very little fat left to trim, and it would be worse if they tried to stretch it out again further in artificial ways. We get an ending, things conclude, and then it cuts sharply to credits. I don’t know if I would ever watch this movie again, but I found it quite charming for the one occasion in which I have seen it. It’s a good film to watch in a dark room with all your friends and won’t have the same impact by yourself.
Sometimes being charming is enough to save a film, even when it may not be objectively good from a snooty drama point of view. Crawl is such a film, and it openly wears its intentions on its sleeves. Good for you, Crawl.
Crawl is worth seeing once, with friends.