Horror Master Sam Raimi & Horror Filmmaker Alexandre Aja Collaborate On A Throwback To The Creature Feature Of The 70’s & 80’s. “Crawl” Is Pure B-Movie Heaven. It’s Tightly Paced, Full Of Tension, Suspense, Chills & Emotion. This Is The Perfect Summer Movie That Should Be Experienced With An Audience.
Summer films are typically filled to the brim with noisy big summer action films (“Hobbs & Shaw”), superhero flicks (“Avengers EndGame”), a roster of kids films (“Aladdin”, “Toy Story 4”, “The Lion King”), mediocre comedies (“Stuber”), remakes, reboots or sequels. Sometimes there is also films that standout above the rest as original and creative films like: “Rocketman”, “Longshot” and “Late Night”.
The summer lineup always has something for everyone, but giving us a “simple” movie, is a nice way to cleanse our palates of the big summer fair. I love when films remain simple from start to finish. A film that has no brainy twist or a film where the story isn’t trying to be something more than its premise. “Crawl” is that film, as it doesn’t try to be deep, twisty and meaningful.
In his first film since 2016, horror auteurs Alexandre Aja director of “Mirrors”, “Horns”, “Piraña 3D” and “The Hills Have Eyes”, collaborates with horror director and producer mastermind Sam Raimi (“Evil Dead”, “Drag Me To Hell”, “A Simple Plan”). The two filmmakers, takes us into the eye of a Category 5 storm. If the massive hurricane wasn’t enough, they add in the element of hungry alligators.
Kaya Scodelario is Haley Keller, a young woman who receives an urgent call from her sister. Their father, Dave (Barry Pepper), isn’t answering her calls. With the massive storm approaching, Haley decides to make her way to his home to see if he’s okay. When she realizes that he isn’t at his apartment, she returns to the family home that is currently in escrow. There, she finds that her father has been injured with deep cuts around his shoulder. After she finds him unconcious, Haley attempts to take him to the hospital before the weather gets worse. Unfortunately their family home has an unwelcome visitor hiding in the shadows of the crawl space where Haley and her father are trapped. Now trying to avoid the rising waters and the grip of the alligator’s jaws, they only have a slight hope of someone coming to their rescue as the two battle the beast and the massive storm that surround them.
The premise behind this lean and mean 87 minute creature feature is as impressive as you can get with this kind of premise. “Crawl” is the best predator vs human thriller since Blake Lively single handily took down that great white in “The Shallows”. Alexandre Aja’s film is the perfect summer movie. It’s relentless, fast paced and an edge of your seat clincher that should be experienced with a crowd. “Crawl” presents that simple story, yet it gives us characters that you actually care about, and a series of shocks and jolts that truly work. For Alexandre Aja, “Crawl” is certainly one of his best works, although Kiefer Sutherland’s “Mirrors” is still my favorite.
This kind of B-movie is easy to mess up and can easily come across as SYFY channel original bad, or often it can become too silly to be scary, or the main characters are less than interesting and far too ditzy. However with the combination of Aja and Sam Raimi the horror on display is seriously nerve wracking. Having the great effort put into the performances and the short running time does help, but it also works because the alligator comes off as scary as hell. The second you hear that low growl or his tough leathery skin bang against the metal pipes you know things are going to get nasty.
This is an Alexandre Aja film so you know there will be a few cringeworthy moments when it comes to on-screen brutality. As in his past films Aja is a master at creating prosthetic wounds and “Crawl” is no exception. Giving us gashes, cuts and human bones sticking out of places they shouldn’t be. However it all never feels out of place or simply put in for shocks sake. Even the jump scares are used wisely creating a terrifying tension filled viewing experience.
The casting takes a minimalist approach as the story revolves around the daughter and father combo Haley and Dave. Scodelario and Pepper play alongside one another well, as their character drama is just enough to understand their emotional and physical circumstances within their broken family. They both have a movingly and emotional scene together that adds a humanity to the story. Both actors are terrific here as they are able to bring this alligator flick a bit of heart. The strained relationship between the two adds to their performances, giving the audience two characters that they can root for.
Kaya Scodelario gives a solid heroine performance that doesn’t require her to shriek to be saved. Her accomplishments are celebratory and her failures hurt because of how human she is to us. Barry Pepper (played Dale Earnhardt in the biopic “3”) wears the skin of the weary well and as he grinds his teeth, moans and screams in pain and fear, it never feels over the top.
The very minor supporting characters are there to function as alligator meals and they all work rather well within the films structure. Instead of just adding a body count, the supporting players connect to the leading characters enough without making them seem wasteful. Yet it’s both Scodelario and Pepper that give a real human and emotional feel.
Playing as one of the supporting cast is the alligator and storm effects that are impressive, especially considering they worked with a smaller budget. Screenwriters Michael Rasmussen and Shawn Rasmussen’s screenplay is tightly plotted, very well structured and has just the right amount of emotion. I appreciated the fact that it wasn’t some over the top sci-fi film, where the alligators were mutant creations or had super human strength and they were just regular alligators.
Aja makes great use of the space he has to work with, he defines the parameters of the claustrophobic crawl space well. Aja shows us the geography of both the crawlspace and the first floor of the home before gator attack begins. Every corner, every blind alley, feels dangerous and the camera shoots everything within the house in a much tighter framing.
My only minor complaints is there are a few questionable things the characters do. It’s one of those cliches of people making dumb decisions. Although that is something fairly common for a movie like this, so it became a minor issue. Lastly I was hoping the last shot of the film would have been what I came up with in my head. It’s probably what Aja would have been expected to do, so it was nice to see his ending go another way.
“Crawl” not only runs at the perfect pace and length, it also keeps itself interesting, tension-filled and fun. There’s never a sense of repetition, thankfully because every possible situation gets played out in front of us. “Crawl” is a simple but effective film and simple is all you need to make a movie fun. We need more simple movies like “Crawl”. It’s a creature feature that is a welcome entry to its genre, the kind that sends you home with an adrenaline rush.
It’s one of the best thrillers of the year. The suspense builds, the actors are terrific, and the alligator is a fierce and powerful beast. Aja has crafted a brilliantly suspenseful take on the man vs. nature vs. animal genre. It’s Aja at his best, you don’t want to miss one of this year’s and this summer’s sleeper hits.
GRADE: ★★★★☆ (4 out of 5)