It seems every time you watch the news or read a report online, a natural disaster is striking somewhere. Be it earthquakes, tornados, or hurricanes, we are constantly reminded that man does not control the environment, but is at its mercy. And the movie Crawl presents a worst case scenario to further highlight the folly of man with a combined terror of hurricanes, floods, and lots and lots of hungry alligators!
The story of Crawl follows Haley Keller (Kaya Scodelario, The Maze Runner) a professional athletic swimmer in an estranged relationship with her father Dave (Barry Pepper, Saving Private Ryan) who pushed her to compete and was recently in a messy divorce. With Hurricane Wendy about to strike Florida, and her calls and messages ignored, she follows him to the old family house to make sure he’s okay amid the evacuation. Only to become entrapped alongside him in the house’s flooding crawlspace as the storm hits and they’re surrounded by several vicious alligators! Now, they must find a way to survive an onslaught of predators, the storm, and flooding waters.
It’s a simple enough premise, and an innovative one at that. Haley and Dave are stuck in the house’s crawlspace having to contend with one menace after another. While director Alexandre Aja is known for his more over the top films like Piranha 3D, Crawl is far more tempered and grounded, which makes it all the more frightening to watch as the alligators stalk through the dark and rip people limb from limb. The alligators themselves being an overwhelming presence, keeping both the characters and audience paranoid that one of those murder machines could be dwelling in the murky waters and could snap their jaws up at any second.
There’s also a real heart to the story of Crawl as Haley and Dave deal with their dysfunctional relationship. Nothing like being trapped in a flooding basement full of man-eating gators to work through estrangement! The characters showing their inventiveness and determination to stay alive through the ordeal. The story is tightly paced and hooks the audience on every second, every raindrop, because the characters are on a ticking clock and every moment matters. The visual FX for the film work for the most part, with a large portion being practical and complete with a fully flooded set. Some of the CG gators don’t mesh quite as well, but not enough to take you out of the film. The blood and gore FX standing out in particular. Every wound, bleed, and compact fracture looking disturbingly real enough to make you squirm.
Overall, Crawl is a tight and intense natural disaster – monster movie hybrid. One that’ll be especially scary for anyone near hurricanes, alligators, or both!