Director: Alexandre Aja
Writers: Michael Rasmussen and Shawn Rasmussen
Starring: Kaya Scodelario, Barry Pepper, Morfydd Clark
When a massive hurricane hits her Florida hometown, young Haley (Scodelario) ignores the evacuation orders to search for her missing father (Pepper). After finding him severely injured in the basement of their family home they become trapped in the rising flood waters, and to make matters worse the floodwaters are full of gigantic alligators!
There is certainly no denying that French director Alexandre Aja knows his horror genres, which can only explain how he can make an exceptional film such as Switchblade Romance (or High Tension as it is also known), an interesting film like Horns and also an intentionally trashy film like Piranha 3D. Well, though certainly not anywhere near as trashy as Piranha 3D, Crawl is still very much at the ‘self-aware genre piece’ end of Aja’s directorial spectrum.
Crawl does of course have a very simple premise at its heart, but thanks to some great direction and a decent leading performance is overall a very enjoyable and watchable film, albeit one that is very convoluted and repetitive. The concept of flood waters, Florida and alligators is certainly not beyond the realms of realistic possibility, and so Aja and screenwriters Michael and Sawn Rasmussen certainly utilise this to create some very effective set pieces that work on some of our basic fears of claustrophobia, isolation and of course, drowning. The main problem is of course that they have to stretch this out to a feature length running time, and despite only being 87 minutes long, Crawl does at times feel quite tiresome and repetitive.
One method of dealing with this is of course having random characters turn up that will ultimately meet gruesome demises, these moments and the ever-rising flood water (something used very effectively in the very 90s thriller Hard Rain) do create effectively enjoyable and tense moments. Screenwriters Michael and Shawn Rasmussen seem very happy to embrace narrative cliché; the opening sequence of the film features Kaya Scodelario’s protagonist in a swimming competition. Now, there are quite literally no prizes on offer for anyone who thinks that the protagonist’s swimming ability may play a key role in the narrative development!
What also helps is that the film’s two main characters are seemingly willing to also embrace the film’s cliché-ridden narrative conventions and do deliver impressively stoic performances despite the frequent b-movie quality material that they are given. Barry Pepper (who tends to play quite intense characters) deserves full credit for saying lines likes “we are going to beat these pea brain lizard shits!” with a completely straight face!
Crawl may not win any prizes for originality, but its seeming self-awareness of what it actually is do serve it well to make it an effectively watchable and entertaining film, and this surely is summed up the most by the fact that it faithfully conforms to the famous rule involving canine characters. For those few of you that do not know what I mean – just look it up!
A mindless genre piece that seems very happy to embrace this fact; Crawl will certainly not live long in the memory, but is perfectly watchable and forgettable nonsense that has some very well executed moments.