A lean, mean & action-packed creature feature with a strong bite & sturdy grip that’s well aware of its strengths & limitations, Crawl is an incessantly tense, thrilling & edge-of-the-seat extravaganza that packs a simple plot but executes it with remarkable effectiveness. Making the most of its submerged setting, ratcheting up the tension to unbearable levels, utilising the genre elements efficiently, and unfolding at fleeting velocity, Alexandre Aja’s latest does exactly what it set out to do.
Set in the midst of a massive hurricane, the story follows a young woman who decides to head to her Florida hometown to check on her father after he doesn’t respond to her call. Finding him gravely injured in the underground crawl space of their family home, she is horrified when she encounters alligators down there with them in the labyrinthine mess. As the storm outside gets worse & floodwater starts filling up the narrow spaces, they are left with no choice but to quickly find a way to make it out alive.
Directed by Alexandre Aja (best known for Haute Tension), Crawl doesn’t concern itself with accurately depicting hurricanes or alligator predation or even limitations imposed upon our bodies by serious injuries, but is solely focused on delivering old-school thrills to its viewers in a no-holds-barred fashion. The setup is quick, the execution is slick, and the director does well to keep things taut, gripping & nail-biting once the main plot kicks into action. Also, it is arguably Aja’s most mainstream film to date.
The plot outline is interesting, plus there is just enough meat on characters & tenderness in the father-daughter bonding to make us care. Dialogues do get cheesy at times without spoiling the perilous mood. The limited crawl space has a claustrophobic feel to it which is brilliantly utilised. The sharp & sophisticated camerawork makes sure that its sense of danger never leaves the room while neat, skilful editing further streamlines its narrative by trimming off the fat, and unfolds its 87 mins story at a fast & furious pace.
As is the case with every Alexandre Aja film, Crawl doesn’t hold back on violence & flesh-eating savagery but it also makes sure that it doesn’t go overboard and revel in gore. Just the mere presence of alligators is enough to invoke our deep-seated fear of getting eaten alive, plus their underwater presence looms over the frames at all times. Barry Pepper & Kaya Scodelario play their respective father & daughter characters with finesse, with the latter impressing more. But the real show-stealers are those ruthless & ravenous gators.
On an overall scale, Crawl is an endlessly fun, entertaining & satisfying disaster survival horror adventure that plays to its strengths and knows when & where to draw the line. A snarling mix of kinetic direction, intelligent camerawork, razor sharp editing, nail-biting thrills, vicious gator kills, breakneck pace & wonderful performances that definitely isn’t the first film of its kind but is certainly up there with other examples that managed to get the most mileage out of their ordinary premise. Fresh despite the familiar touches, Crawl is absolutely worth your time & money.