Mladen and Del review ‘Crawl’

Image courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment.

“Crawl” starring Kaya Scodelario, Barry Pepper, Morfydd Clark. Directed by Alexandre Aja. 127 minutes. R rated.

Mladen’ take

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.

Del’s take

“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.

Image courtesy of NOAA.

As the dark clouds and the muddy waters swirl, let us pause to express our gratitude.

It could have been worse. Much worse.

The hurricane could have been named “Monica,” leaving bashful journalists deprived of verbs. How do you describe a windstorm without using the word “blow”?

Ah, but there’s no sexual connotation to that word – not according to the Clintonites, who want to move along because they’re “tired” of hearing about the lies/scandals/hypocrisy. Once again, the flatulent, huffing-their-own-gases segment of the population votes with its comfort level.

Not so for the shell-shocked denizens of the Gulf Coast, who remain glassy-eyed from the near-continuous barrage of hurricane coverage. I should be more grateful, but my eyes are still rolling in the sockets, following the leathery hand of The Weather Channel’s John Hope as he traces swirly motions over the infrared/radar/satellite image of what could be a hurricane or could be the White House after hours. It’s all a disaster looking.

Once Georges lurched ashore, it dropped brimming buckets of rain, creating an instant market for anybody who knows how to fix a leaky roof … or refloat a house.

FEMA knows how to refloat a house, especially if it’s a mansion build on a sandbar. They’ve been doing it for years, and guess whose pockets they pluck to do it. I’ll bet if the FEMA boys dug through their files, they could find a policy for Atlantis.

If the FEMAtics really want to help, give every man, woman and child in Northwest Florida his own liquor license. I’m feeling empowered already!

But I doubt the feds will cooperate. Instead, we’ll get McCarthy-era macaroni, forms in triplicate to jam under the doors, and a visit from a high-ranking official, maybe even Linda Tripp!

So let’s look on the private-sector bright side: The trend is downward for hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico, as reported in the July 23 Daily News in a story about GLOBAL WARMING. Maybe storms Charley, Early, Francis and Georges didn’t catch that part. They got to the words GLOBAL WARMING and tuned out, the way MONICA LEWINSKY affects the fashionably flawed.

But let’s not carp about GLOBAL WARMING. It’s been debunked by editorial writers everywhere, same as the infamous OZONE HOLE. Except the ozone hole is real. Oops.

Nevertheless, be of good cheer. The wet got wetter, but with luck we won’t be one of them, and even if we are, the benevolent hand of somebody – the media, the government, maybe President Bill himself – will lift us up, or at least tell us they did.

And that’s what matters: the appearance, not the substance, of a thing.

So don’t worry. When Hurricane Monica forms, it won’t come into the gulf. And if it does, macaroni is only a stack of forms in triplicate away!

About the author:

Del Stone Jr. is a professional fiction writer. He is known primarily for his work in the contemporary dark fiction field, but has also published science fiction and contemporary fantasy. Stone’s stories, poetry and scripts have appeared in publications such as Amazing Stories, Eldritch Tales, and Bantam-Spectra’s Full Spectrum. His short fiction has been published in The Year’s Best Horror Stories XXII; Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine; the Pocket Books anthology More Phobias; the Barnes & Noble anthologies 100 Wicked Little Witch Stories, Horrors! 365 Scary Stories, and 100 Astounding Little Alien Stories; the HWA anthology Psychos; and other short fiction venues, like Blood Muse, Live Without a Net, Zombiesque and Sex Macabre. Stone’s comic book debut was in the Clive Barker series of books, Hellraiser, published by Marvel/Epic and reprinted in The Best of Hellraiser anthology. He has also published stories in Penthouse Comix, and worked with artist Dave Dorman on many projects, including the illustrated novella “Roadkill,” a short story for the Andrew Vachss anthology Underground from Dark Horse, an ashcan titled “December” for Hero Illustrated, and several of Dorman’s Wasted Lands novellas and comics, such as Rail from Image and “The Uninvited.” Stone’s novel, Dead Heat, won the 1996 International Horror Guild’s award for best first novel and was a runner-up for the Bram Stoker Award. Stone has also been a finalist for the IHG award for short fiction, the British Fantasy Award for best novella, and a semifinalist for the Nebula and Writers of the Future awards. His stories have appeared in anthologies that have won the Bram Stoker Award and the World Fantasy Award. Two of his works were optioned for film, the novella “Black Tide” and short story “Crisis Line.”

Stone recently retired after a 41-year career in journalism. He won numerous awards for his work, and in 1986 was named Florida’s best columnist in his circulation division by the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors. In 2001 he received an honorable mention from the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association for his essay “When Freedom of Speech Ends” and in 2003 he was voted Best of the Best in the category of columnists by Emerald Coast Magazine. He participated in book signings and awareness campaigns, and was a guest on local television and radio programs.

As an addendum, Stone is single, kills tomatoes and morning glories with ruthless efficiency, once tied the stem of a cocktail cherry in a knot with his tongue, and carries a permanent scar on his chest after having been shot with a paintball gun. He’s in his 60s as of this writing but doesn’t look a day over 94.

Contact Del at [email protected]. He is also on Facebook, twitter, Pinterest, tumblr, TikTok, Ello and Instagram. Visit his website at .