Creature movies have had a rough time over the past few years. Often offering little more than a simple story, while delivering nothing of substance. From Rampage to The Meg, natural predators have been treated as mere action fodder for simple muscle clad heroes. However, with Crawl director Alexandre Aja (Maniac) manages to bring us a far more nuanced thriller. Where disaster movie meets alligators in a world of dramatically accelerating climate change.
Written by Michael Rasmussen and Shawn Rasmussen, and produced by Sam Raimi’s Ghost House Pictures. Crawl manages to offer some genuine jumps and scares in its short 87 minute running time. While mixing the ingredients of a disaster film with one of the oldest predators in the world. Ultimately creating a film as much about human arrogance as it is about the hungry alligators at its heart.
As Hurricane Wendy bears down on the Florida keys, with its power and destructive force growing hour by hour. Professional swimmer Haley (Kaya Scodelario) receives a worried phone calls from her sister. Their Dad (Barry Pepper) is failing to respond to calls, his work and personal numbers going straight to voice mail. Worried but equally frustrated at her dads lack of contact. Hayley decides to drive down the coast to check on him, right into the eye of the incoming storm.
On arrival Hayley finds her dad trapped in the crawl space under his house, with horrific bite marks. Leading to the realisation that they are not alone as the flood waters rise.
Crawl uses its classic disaster movie template to ramp up the tension from the first act. With the importance of family support in a time of crisis, replacing the common sense of approaching danger. While an estranged family unit are also brought closer together by the impending disaster surrounding them.
While equally, playing with the claustrophobic atmosphere of rising flood waters in a similar way to the Poseidon Adventure and The Wave. Not only using the creatures to in creating jepodary, but also using the water itself as a character. While the true horror comes from the the power of nature and our insignificance in the face of disaster. As much as it does the snappy predators gliding under the flood waters.
However, back to the snappy man eaters. Crawl does ensure the CGI alligators feel real as the tension builds. While cleverly homing in on the natural abilities of species to adapt to the new world around them. But despite this there are also moments where the alligators fall into pure B-Movie creature horror, especially towards the end. And while this is a weakness in narrative, Crawl equally never treats the alligators as villains. Focussing on their in-built abilities to thrive in conditions humans struggle to manage. And It is within this narrative that Crawl is at its most interesting. Exploring the human arrogance inherent in our view of our planet, and our view of ourselves as the dominant species. While failing to understand our planets power to remove us, and allow other creatures to thrive.
Crawl is not a perfect movie, running out of steam towards the final act, while the tension is replaced by the need wrap things up. In turn riding rough shot over some of its most interesting ideas with a traditional movie ending. However, in the main Crawl does manage to keep the tension going, while offering enough jumps to keep the audience engaged. Mixing the classic disaster movie with B-Movie creature horror, in a way that takes aim at human superiority. While equally taking a bite out of our perceived dominance over our planet and it’s amazing species.
Directed by: Alexandre Aja
Starring: Kaya Scodelario and Barry Pepper
Score by: Max Aruj & Steffen Thum
Cinematography: Maxime Alexandre
Production Company: Ghost House Pictures
Distributed by: Paramount Pictures