Starring: Kaya Scodelario, Barry Pepper, Ross Anderson
Director: Alexandre Aja
Running Time: 87 mins
Crawl is an American film about a woman who finds herself trapped in her Florida home with her father in the midst of a Category 5 hurricane, and surrounded by vicious, man-eating alligators.
Hardly a modern masterpiece of cinema, there are few films out there as purely ridiculous, over-the-top and chaotic as Crawl. And yet, that’s exactly why it’s such a brilliant watch, taking the classic creature feature genre to new heights with both hilariously entertaining action and genuinely exhilarating thrills and tension, proving a snappy hour and a half of brilliant blockbuster fun that I absolutely adored from beginning to end.
It’s important, though, for me to say that this isn’t one of those so-bad-it’s-good movies. It’s not a Sharknado or Megashark vs. Giant Octopus or whatever it’s called, but actually a well-made, genuinely exciting monster thriller. Think of The Shallows for the most recent direct comparison, a film that, as ridiculous and silly as it may seem from the outside, actually has some real merit throughout.
And that’s what I really liked about Crawl. It’s a little more on the ridiculous side compared to The Shallows, but it doesn’t forget about the basic requirements of creating tension and excitement, as well as featuring likable and generally intelligent main characters. As a result, it’s not just enjoyable because the killer gator premise is so crazy, but because it’s actually an exciting action thriller.
Director Alexandre Aja does a great job right the way through. After a slightly draggy opening 15 minutes, the film gets right down to business with what you’ve come to see, and explodes into a frenzy of rapid-fire action that doesn’t let up right until the end.
Aja injects an exhilarating and breathless pace into the movie that even The Shallows didn’t have, multiplying the fun and fear factor of the faceoff with a group of gators, and wrapping you up in the chaos of the entire situation, impressing with good, unpredictable twists and attacks, as well as a number of entertaining and satisfying jumpscares – something that’s really hard to get right.
The movie is perhaps a little visually darker and dingier than is perhaps best, with the majority of the story playing out in the muddy underside of a house in the middle of a hurricane, and the CGI on the alligators is far from world-class. However, as much as some production values don’t seem to be up to scratch, the film is still very professional, and feels a thousand times better than the likes of Sharknado that it will likely be compared to most.
Lead actors Kaya Scodelario and Barry Pepper are hugely entertaining right the way through, with Scodelario in particular being up for all the ridiculous fun, bringing a massively likable energy to the film that gets you on side into supporting her and her father as they battle desperately to escape the ever-worsening danger of both a Category 5 hurricane and a group of vicious alligators.
In the end, then, Crawl is the film that shows exactly how a modern monster movie should be made. With a focus on exciting, tense and unpredictable action and horror, the film is non-stop entertainment right the way through, featuring breathless, rapid pacing that works brilliantly in tandem with a playful and self-aware brand of monster horror that’s just as hilarious as it is surprisingly exhilarating.
It’s not a cinematic masterpiece, but Crawl takes a simple, fun premise and makes it work in spectacular fashion, proving perhaps one of the best creature features to hit the big screen in a long time, and that’s why I’m giving it an 8.0 overall.