Film Review: Crawl

Director Alexandre Aja’s latest thriller/horror outing wades through some broadly-written characters, a few contrivances and a heady dose of silliness, all in the service of some pretty awesome alligator action.

Aja, who’s struggled somewhat outside France after his intense (if ludicrous) breakthrough High Tension 16 years ago, teams up with legendary genre-type producer Sam Raimi to create something that isn’t really a revenge-of-nature epic, monster movie, creature feature or eco-shocker.

Instead, it’s about a bunch of perfectly ordinary but nevertheless terrifying alligators having a fine old time munching up a small cast during a Category 5 hurricane. No spilt chemicals, mad scientists, environmental hand-wringing or scaly satire (like the John Sayles-scripted Alligator). Just chomping.

Floridian Haley Keller (Kaya Scodelario, possibly best-known now for those Maze Runner films) is a uni student on a swimming scholarship (lucky about that!) introduced coming second in a relay, but we don’t really have time to get into her disappointment before she begrudgingly whisks off into a Category Fiver to see if her estranged Dad Dave (Barry Pepper) is okay. Ignoring the evacuation orders of the police, she winds up, of course, trapped in a flooding basement with her injured father while ginormous gators lurk close by. But hang on: apparently buildings in Florida rarely have basements because this sort of thing happens quite frequently (usually without the man-eaters)? Hmmmm…

The dinosaur-like beasts in question are mainly rendered via effects and animation, but they’ve still got a fair amount of character – and even rather winning smiles too. They also more than once take chunks out of Haley and Dave, but that’s not surprising given the dopey, horror-movie-cliché things the pair do, including the old try-and-dangerously-grab-your-dropped-phone-and then-dial-911-before-racing-back-to-safety routine.

Naturally the hurricane worsens and the family home becomes the site of peril, as Haley does everything in her power to save her Dad, even as he proclaims himself a failure and not worth it. But, you know, family, and that.

An American production by a French director shot in Belgrade (!) and starring an English actress and a Canadian, this is at times soggily familiar, but Kaya and Barry have much chutzpah and make it work. And there’s plenty of bite.

Crawl (MA) is in cinemas now

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