Mladen and Del review ‘Crawl’
“Crawl” starring Kaya Scodelario, Barry Pepper, Morfydd Clark. Directed by Alexandre Aja. 127 minutes. R rated.
The film “Crawl” is a model of efficiency and efficacy. In the first, oh, 10 minutes, the audience is introduced to the fact that our heroine Haley is a good swimmer who wants to be gooder; that there’s tension in her family; that a powerful hurricane changed course unexpectedly and is heading for South-ish Florida; that first responders will be unable to help if you’re stranded; that Dad isn’t answering calls or texts; and that the family’s dog faces peril. Hell, even the film’s title is efficient because much of the action takes place in a “Crawl” space beneath a home “Crawl”ing with particularly vicious alligators.
“Crawl” has been graded by IMDB viewers as a mediocre horror movie. They’re wrong. This film is an A-, though it misfires here and there. For example, the first couple of gators to attack Dad and Haley hiss, which is OK, and grumble‑moan like they have larynxes. During courtship, bull gators do generate low-frequency sonic vibrations through the water to show-off their manliness to breed and designate territory. But, in “Crawl”, the gator sonics happen in a largely dry, for the moment, “Crawl” space when, I imagine, the gators were thinking about something other than mating. Don’t misunderstand. The gator grumble‑moans were nothing like the shark in “JAWS IV” (or was that “V”?), breaching and then roaring. Still, making the gators make intimidating noise to add menace to the movie was a tad contrived. Also, the film’s depicted family strife is unneeded and the occasional pep talk from Dad for his daughter Haley’s benefit when her tenacity, spirit, resourcefulness, guts, or hope flag amid heavy rainfall, a flooding house, and death‑by‑gator of a childhood friend languorous. And, yes, there’s the questionable decision to leave the house after Haley and Dad finally escape from the reptile‑infested “Crawl” space to reach a boat by wading a couple of hundred feet through murky, hip-high water.
The boat, by the way, was parked at an inundated gas station and convenience store. It was to be used as the escape vehicle by three people who wanted to steal the store’s ATM. Can you guess what happens to the robbers? The fate of the trio is an example of the many times that “Crawl” excels as creature feature horror.
Del will complain about the jump-out-of-your-seat moments in this movie, but I loved the hell out of them. The gator busting through a staircase. The lightning bolt that illuminates a big‑ass meat eater, jaw agape, behind Haley. And, there’s suspense. Lots and lots of suspense. Reaching from a somewhat safe perch across flood water strewn with floating debris that obstructs your view to get your dead friend’s Glock – he was a sheriff’s deputy – for protection. The dog swimming through a long, darkened hallway to reach Dad. All delightful.
“Crawl” also provides a solid dose of gore. Water turning red as gators bite and thrash their human prey. A death roll. A gator gripping Dad near the elbow, snapping his arm in half and then tearing it off. Floating corpses. Wait to you see how Haley dispatches a gator that has taken hold of her. Dad, too, before losing his arm later in the movie, whacks a gator after trapping it in a clever way.
Sit back, if you can, and enjoy “Crawl”. It’s a masterful little film with likeable characters facing cold‑blooded, almost plausible, threats.
“Crawl” is a two-hour and seven-minute wet T-shirt contest, which explains why Mladen likes it so much.
Me? I can take it or leave it. I have nothing against standard-issue potboilers, even if they’re shameless cash grabs, in this case by the studio and a slumming Barry Pepper, who usually chooses more artistically meritorious projects. But schlock is like Hooters chicken wings – to enjoy them one must be in the mood for them, assuming one can focus on the wings and not the breasts. Maybe I wasn’t in the mood for a serving of grease delivered by a perky coed.
As Mladen explained, the protagonist, Haley, travels two hours south of Gainesville to look for her dad as a cat five hurricane approaches. Dad isn’t answering his phone and Haley’s sister up north fears the worst. Haley and Dad are especially close; she’s a college swimmer and he was her coach throughout her youth. But now she’s having doubts after losing a relay, and somehow that means Dad is a monster, or something like that. You know … something conflicty.
As she treks to the AWOL Dad’s seaside abode she passes a flooded alligator farm. These are the Special Super Intelligent Mind-Reading Alligators from Mars or something based on what happens later in the movie. She finds Dad in the crawl space beneath his house, clawed to damn near bloody ruin by … well, OK. I should let you watch the movie to find out, but, Psssttt! It crawls.
What follows is a string of predictable pitfalls, emotional ups and downs and cliché after soggy, growly cliché. I will give “Crawl” credit – in most of these movies the protagonist is a crack shot who always dodges the falling asteroid and ambles into the sunset with the girl – or boy – slung over his or her shoulder. In “Crawl,” no such immunity is granted, and since it’s a father and daughter there will be no ambling into the sunset. Well, maybe an AARP lecture or two.
No, Mladen, I didn’t object to the jump scares. What I did object to was the stupidity – like helicopters flying in a cat five hurricane. Like people strolling the flooded streets in a cat five hurricane. Like a one-armed guy able to bludgeon his way through a roof with his bare hand.
If you go into “Crawl” with sufficiently low expectations you’ll enjoy it, because it’s a decently entertaining movie with not bad special effects. But that’s all we’re talking here – entertainment. Not art.
I give it between a B- and a C+. Make it a B- because the hurricane actually looked somewhat realistic (although heads up, moviemakers: We just had a cat five here in the Panhandle and there’s tons of footage on YouTube if you’d care to educate yourself about what a storm like that looks like).
Mladen Rudman is a former journalist and technical writer. Del Stone Jr. is a former journalist and author.