Crawl is playing in cinemas nationwide now.
Creature-based horrors have had a rough time over the past few years, from the dire Rampage to the ridiculous The Meg, as a result, natural predators have been treated as mere action fodder for muscle-bound heroes aiming to demonstrate human superiority. However, with Crawl, director Alexandre Aja (Maniac) offers us a far more nuanced creature horror wrapped in disaster movie themes of climate change. Written by Michael and Shawn Rasmussen and produced by Sam Raimi, Crawl offers some genuinely delicious jump scares while exploring human arrogance and climate denial as Hurricane Wendy bears down on the Florida Keys.
As she leaves a training session, professional swimmer Haley (Kaya Scodelario) receives a worrying phone call from her sister; their Dad (Barry Pepper), who lives on the coast, is not responding to calls, with every attempt going straight to voice mail. Worried but equally frustrated at her dad’s lack of contact, Hayley drives down the coast and into the eye of the storm to check on him, only to find him trapped in the crawl space under his house with horrific bite marks.
In essence, Crawl is less creature horror and more classic disaster movie as a devastating Hurricane brings together a fragmented family. Here, the claustrophobia and fear of rising flood waters pay homage to films like The Poseidon Adventure and The Wave. But into this disaster movie template, Aja injects some genuinely clever creature horror as a host of snappy predators glide through the flood waters looking for their next meal. The alligators feel incredibly real from the outset as the tension builds and they adapt to the new water world surrounding them. But that doesn’t stop the narrative from falling into classic B-Movie creature horror, especially in the final act when the terror subsides and lurches into bog-standard Hollywood fodder. As a result, Crawl runs out of water to swim in as it nears the last act, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t moments where it snaps at your heels with biting tension.