A simple premise of two people against a vicious pack of creatures, locked in a fight for survival, Crawl does what it says on the tin and is all the better for that. Well acted and suspenseful, it’s a decent little horror flick.
In Florida, Haley(Kaya Scodelario) is an aspiring young swimmer, who nevertheless feels like a letdown as she hasn’t had much success. A lot of this stems from her father Dave(Barry Pepper), who coached her and pushed her very hard as a child. Haley has never felt good enough and is not dealing with her parents divorce very well. While she is estranged from him, she still gets a call from her out of town sister who is worried. Dave hasn’t responded to any of her calls, even though Florida has been warned of an approaching Category 5 Hurricane. Haley decides to check in on her father, despite the warnings of others and the harrowing weather conditions. When she arrives at his place, she can’t find him at first. With the guidance of his dog Sugar, Haley discovers her father in the crawl space, where he lies injured from a vicious bite that has broken his leg. While attempting to move her incapacitated father, Haley is menaced by an alligator that forces her to find what she can of safety in the crawl space. When her father comes around, Haley must work with him in an attempt to escape. It becomes apparent that there is more than just one alligator with them, as they got through via the storm drain . Trapped in the house that is beginning to flood and being terrorised by the vicious predators that are patient but can spring out at any minute , it’ll take all of Haley and Dave’s strength to make it out of this. But with flooding becoming more rapid, hopes of help dashed when looters meet a violent end and the alligators gaining momentum, surviving this hellish ordeal is not going to be so easy for Haley and David.
Alexandre Aja is well known for his films in the horror genre and Crawl fits in nicely with his capabilities. It’s not going for revolutionary horror, but Aja constructs immense suspense throughout, with the dual threats of catastrophic weather and killer alligators proving both a terrifying prospect for the main characters . Setting the film in predominately one location, mainly the crawl space and flooded interior of a house, was a very deft move that lends something claustrophobic to Crawl. Sometimes a simple premise can be successful through entertaining execution. Crawl certainly does that with some added bite, from the direction of Aja and an unexpectedly effective script. It has moments that do make you scratch your head and suspend your sense of logic, but is largely a tense exercise in thrilling horror that is purely there to give you a thrill. The bleak visual style conveys the terror of a hurricane and the damage, added to with a slimy green and moody blue in the crawl space moments that are mightily impressive. Point of view shots crank up the feeling of dread as Haley has to make her way through the crawl space in hope of escaping and saving her father. The effects for the alligators are rather good too, never becoming overly reliant on obvious CGI to create these brutal creatures that feast with ferocious glee, particularly on a group of unsuspecting looters nearby. The running time of just under an hour and a half benefits Crawl as it leaves no space for any excesses or superfluous ideas. It’s a lean, mean horror that boasts good suspense and scenes of bloody terror. Added in is the underlying drama of family that thankfully doesn’t overstay its welcome; rather it allows for something grounded to emerge between who are more alike than they’d care to admit. The fact that Crawl isn’t traversing anything newfangled doesn’t matter because it proves intense and is done with a level of style. A score laden with pervading doom and bubbling atmosphere lends itself well to Crawl; soaking events in a dark and menacing sphere of growing panic, while also putting forth music that has an unusual emotional depth to it for a horror flick.
In what is essentially a two hander , save for other fleeting characters who are mainly there to be food for the alligators, Kaya Scodelario and Barry Pepper give it their best as the fractured daughter and father. Kaya Scodelario is especially good at navigating a character who isn’t the easiest to warm to at first but who earns our sympathy as she refuses to give up in the horrific situation she finds herself stuck in. Scodelario exhibits a troubled and spiky demeanour that’s tempered by ingenuity and depth that you don’t expect. is required to be both emotional and immensely physical, which she roses to with great energy . Barry Pepper is also a reliable presence as an injured, cranky man who is nevertheless someone who when out to the test, can rise above it. Pepper plays the part greatly, showing a man desperate to survive and eventually reconcile with the daughter from whom he is estranged. The characters aren’t given the biggest arcs ever, but what we have proves good enough as we watch their relationship starting to heal amid the carnage before them.
Entertaining, thrilling and filled with tension, Crawl is a suspenseful horror movie that takes advantage of a limited setting and good cast to craft an exhilarating film with snap.