Directed by: Alexandre Aja
Premise: A young woman and her father (Kaya Scodelario and Barry Pepper) are trapped in the crawlspace of their home during a hurricane. They are besieged by a pair of aggressive alligators while the water level continues to rise.
What Works: Crawl is an effective animal attack movie. Pictures like this are about the primal terror of being preyed upon by a wild animal and the filmmakers tap into that fear quite well. The premise of Crawl is compellingly simple. A father and daughter are trapped in a confined space that is filling with water while killer alligators threaten to eat them. The filmmakers get the characters into the scenario in a mostly credible way; the daughter checks in on her father in the midst of a severe storm and then the two of them are trapped between the threat of the rising water and the alligators. From there the characters behave mostly rationally as they try to find an escape route. Crawl was directed by Alexandre Aja who previously helmed Piranha 3-D and the remake of The Hills Have Eyes. Aja is skilled at building tension. The terror is allowed to build to a climax that ends in well-earned jump scares. The action is framed very well and creates a claustrophobic feeling. The film also benefits from restraint. Aja is not a filmmaker who shies away from gore but in Crawl he’s judicious about the violence so that the alligator attacks retain their power. As good as the terror is, Crawl also has adequate drama. The father-daughter relationship feels real and Kaya Scodelario and Barry Pepper act this well both for terror but also for family drama. Crawl works within the boundaries of its genre but the filmmakers find ways of inserting some depth into the characters so that their efforts to save themselves and each other have some gravitas.
What Doesn’t: Crawl overextends its credibility in several moments. Anyone who knows anything about alligators will recognize some of the departures from reality. The animals in this film are far more ravenous and aggressive than those usually found in the wild. The human characters suffer what should be debilitating injuries and continue on. The film is also inconsistent with regard to rescuers and first responders. In the opening of the movie it is made clear that no help is coming but later on rescuers show up anyway. However, movies like Crawl are predicated on being outrageous. That’s the fun of a movie like this and to critique Crawl for being true to its genre is to miss the point. But a few of these credibility gaps snap the viewer out of the illusion.
Bottom Line: Crawl is a fun animal attack picture. It has no pretensions and delivers exactly what it promises and does it well. This is good popcorn entertainment and one of Alexandre Aja’s most accessible films.
Episode: #758 (July 21, 2019)