Batten down the hatches and brace your homes, because Crawl hits Blu-ray/DVD/home video this Tuesday, October 15th! The survival horror home invasion film was a personal favorite of mine this year, so it’s great to finally give it a rewatch.
It also comes with some great bonus features, most prominently a 45-minute making-of video that goes into the nitty-gritty on how the stunts and water effects among many other feats were pulled off.
Interestingly enough, it also includes an unused alternate opening for Crawl in motion comic form, a prologue of sorts that shows a family trying to escape the hurricane…and encounter some alligators as well as some features on the gator VFX, and a reel of the memorable gator attacks.
I was fortunate enough to talk with director Alexandre Aja about Crawl and what the project entailed.
Jacob Davison: How did you become involved with CRAWL?
Alexandre Aja: I was looking at my previous two movies Horns and The 9th Life of Louis Drax and they were more on the border of the genre.
Horns was more like a fantasy fable. While The 9th Life of Louis Drax was more a drama with a horror element in it. But I just kept going and I’m a huge fan and I love to be scared in the movie theater.
I was seeing great movies like Don’t Breathe and I was like “I would love to find a way to go back to High Tension. To go back to The Hills Have Eyes. To go back to that type of suspense, very straightforward story.
I was reading scripts, reading books then one day right before the weekend I got that script from the Rassmussen Brothers, Crawl. I read the logline and the logline was so simple. You know, there’s this young woman who has to go save her dad during a category 5 hurricane in a flooded zone infested with alligators.
For me, that just was everything I was looking for.
It was an obvious concept. Very simple and a great way to build the movie I was looking for. In the same time, I kind of kept thinking about the story and I read the script and it wasn’t quite what I wanted to do. It was way more contained.
Everything took place in the crawlspace. I talked to the writers and to the producer who sent me the script, Craig Flores.
Together, we decided to give it a try to make it bigger. We made it more a survival story in a hurricane with a ticking clock of the water coming up from the basement to the rooftop.
With the home invasion idea of the family home being destroyed by the elements that are coming inside, also the gators that are coming inside.
That kind of escalation coming in and creating a pure survival suspense that will keep the audience on the edge of their seats. That will create that fun element of being tense form beginning to end. That was really the beginning of the adventure.
JD: Nice. And how did Sam Raimi become involved?
AA: We did love the script.
After a while, Craig Flores and me as producer of the movie. We needed someone to come help us make it because the movie became more ambitious, bigger, more expensive. Sam was the first person we could think about because I… you know, I had this potential to work with him as a producer when I did my first English speaking movie.
And I had to choose between doing The Hills Have Eyes or doing The Messengers that Sam Raimi was producing. And for me, it was a very tough choice because Wes Craven and Sam Raimi were my two gods growing up and becoming a filmmaker.
So, I said no to Sam Raimi and I hoped one day we could work together.
I tried with Crawl and he connected with the script. Remembered we were supposed to work together 15 years ago and I think it was a great match.
Sam is one of the producers that you dream of having when you’re a filmmaker. He’s someone who really knows how to make a difference in the editing room during the shooting.
But he’s here to mostly understand your vision and to help you defend your vision with the studio. It’s really important to have someone that’s not trying to make this whole movie for you but also understand what kind of movie you’re trying to make and help make it.
JD: Considering you were working with flooding, constructed sets, what was that environment like to work in?
AA: It was quite obvious we could not shoot in Florida and that we couldn’t shoot in a real location because of, you know: if you’re shooting a real hurricane you need the trees bending, you need the low sky, the kind of–all the rain all the time.
Water coming up. Since we were going to build everything on stage, we needed to find a place in the world with the biggest type of warehouse.
We didn’t need a soundstage because of the wind machine and the rain. Some was screwed from the beginning! Like a no sound friendly movie. We looked and we found a gigantic warehouse in Belgrade, Serbia. Right by the river, right in the middle of town and we decided to build all seven tanks there.
We had one giant tank that was for the outside but still inside to play with all the blue screens everywhere.
That was like 80 meters and 60 meters it was like a gigantic, huge tank filling with water up to three meters and it was spectacular.
Every section of the house. The crawlspace obviously, the nest, the ground floor, the second floor, the rooftop, the bottom of the lake.
Everything was built on different tanks. We spent most of our time in pre-production dealing with how much water, how to filter the water, how to pump the water. All to use the water from one tank to the other.
All to change the set in the same tank without losing everything. It was just (laughs) a really, really difficult challenge.
At the end though, only the experience matters. I’m happy with the Blu-ray release people are going to be able to actually take a peek behind the scenes of this movie. Because I think no one imagined how difficult- how challenging it was.
JD: I asked Sam Raimi and Craig Flores this question, so I was curious to get your response. Which do you think is scarier: hurricanes or alligators?
AA: You know, I think that the whole movie is a home invasion movie. Some of the hurricane are some of the scariest elements of all time. It’s coming more and more every year and it’s not going to get better. It’s just brutal.
We were shooting and even if we had all the best people and if we had all the best techniques… water doesn’t care. Water destroys. Water just breaks walls. Water breaks sets.
Within the movie, with us we were fighting with water. And water was really tough with us. I think that somehow that hurricanes are way more scary than alligators.
But alligators are a very unused group of predator. That’s also the reason I didn’t want to make them oversized or with an agenda of revenge or anything because as they are, in real life those friendly neighbors are millions of years old.
Just, perfect kind of killing machines. Their death roll is one of the most gruesome way of grabbing their prey. Mauling you and dismembering you, the fact that they are stalking you. Behind some trees to wait for you to rot so you have more taste. The whole thing is very interesting. I believe they’re more interesting than sharks somehow.
JD: Funnily enough, Sam and Craig both chose alligators.
AA: Yes! You know, I can imagine they were not in the water as much as I was. (laughter.) That’s the reason.