- Film & TV
- 09 Sep 19
Anybody who has ever followed an American election knows that Florida is an unpredictable, nightmarish hellscape. But in Crawl, director Alexandre Aja focuses more on the horrors of the natural world. College student and competitive swimmer Haley (Kaya Scodelario) is worried when a Category Five hurricane starts raging, and she can’t get in touch with her estranged father, Dave (Barry Pepper). Ignoring warnings and evacuation instructions, she braves the howling winds and torrential rain to get to their old family home. Haley eventually finds her Dad, injured and unconscious, in the gross, labyrinthine and rapidly flooding crawlspace under the house. But they’re not alone. There’s a giant, killer alligator down there with them.
Yes, kids, strap in for Jaws-meets-Twister-meets-Snakes On A Plane. The chomping is coming from inside the house.
The premise is unapologetic schlock – but Aja milks every ounce of terror from the 20-foot long, scaly, fanged, ferociously fast, prehistoric beasts, which are realistically rendered. Combining the tension-building skills and knowledge of aquatic monstrosities previously demonstrated on The Hills Have Eyes and Piranha, Aja keeps the pacing snappy (sorry).
Effectively harnessing the murky and claustrophobic geography of the basement, the ominously rising water levels, and Hayley’s swimming abilities, Aja and sibling writers Michael and Shawn Rasmussen find imaginative, occasionally clever, occasionally enjoyably eye-rolling ways of letting our characters just about escape the alligator – which has a habit of swimming directly at the camera to get your heartrate up.
Characterisation is light, but serves the action well. Dave’s aggressive, sports-dad coaching and insistence that Hayley thinks of herself as an “apex predator” comes in handy (though therapy may be in the family’s future, should they make it out alive). Though her range is limited, Scodelario brings a believable grit and determination to Haley. As the water level – and thus the action – starts moving up through the house, you’re applauding all her MacGyvered traps and near escapes. Don’t worry, though. This nicely nasty B-movie knows you want some limb snacks and blood whirlpools. You’ll get them.