Special Effects: B
How much can be said about Crawl, really? It’s so straightforward, such a to-the-point thriller, really all you need to know to decide whether it’s worth watching is the premise: a young adult woman (Kaya Scodelario) and her dad (Barry Pepper) are stranded by giant alligators in the crawlspace under a house during a Florida hurricane. And even though I usually avoid cornball thrillers, I saw that and I was like, “Sold!”
Well, okay, I didn’t exactly put it at the top of my priority list — this movie opened a month ago and I only saw it this week due to a lack of better options. But hey, when there’s nothing better around to see, it works great! Also, to be perfectly honest, I would absolutely recommend it to any person I know with lowbrow tastes. I don’t even say that derisively — plenty of lowbrow entertainment is worthy. And this director, Alexandre Aja, does it well. At least he did this one well; I haven’t seen anything else he’s done. The Hills Have Eyes? Piranha 3D? Don’t waste my time!
You might think I’m being a little inconsistent here. You might be right. But! As it happens, Jaws is among my all-time favorite movies, and this is essentially Jaws with alligators. Of course, Jaws is a masterpiece and Crawl is . . . not. The impressive thing about Crawl is how it manages not to be total trash either. Perhaps it needs to be seen to be believed, considering it basically mashes up the killer-animal-thriller genre with the natural disaster genre. Why didn’t they call this Hurrigator, anyway? I’ll tell you why: because it actually isn’t trash!
Sure, the script, by Michael Rasmussen and Shawn Rasmussen, is slightly corny at times. For a movie of this sort, the corniness being only slight is a massive compliment, considering how very much worse it could have been. The story beats are well polished, and clocking in at a tight 87 minutes with impressively paced suspense throughout, this movie never even flirts with being boring. A $13.5 million budget is not exactly huge, and they spend it well, with special effects that won’t blow you away but are still impressive given their clear limitations.
For what it is and what it promises to be, Crawl has few particular flaws, and whatever flaws it has are minor. It’s a thriller that delivers on the thrills. I suppose it’s easy to have a “take it or leave it” approach to the subplot regarding the estrangement of this father and daughter due to his being an overbearing swim coach. But can you guess whether that swimming skill winds up coming in handy?
A good majority of the film features only these two characters — the names of the two actors who play them being the only ones above the title in the opening credits. Sporadically other characters come into play — most notably local law enforcement directing traffic or doing rescue work, and a trio of looters in a convenience store across the flooded street. You can go ahead and just regard all of these characters as expendable. A few of them meet some quite entertainingly gruesome fates. There’s a dog too, of course, and just don’t worry your pretty little head over him. That said, I did kind of wish this movie would buck convention and just end with the gators having actually eaten everyone. I would have loved that.
Instead, of course, Crawl follows a pretty tried and true formula. A movie can still be good while following a formula, though. With something like this, it’s basically the trappings that matter. How realistic it is doesn’t even matter. What matters is how well executed the story is onscreen, and that’s where Crawl surprises. I spent half this movie with my fingers over my eyes, and I also had a blast. What more do you need?
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