Spoilers ahead, if you haven’t seen this!
Imagine this scenario: A Category Five hurricane is bearing down on you, and you get stuck in a crawl space of a Florida home (basements are uncommon in Florida, obviously, but a crawl space is fair enough; plus it makes for a nice play on the title) with your dad, who is already semi-incapacitated because of a prior gator attack, and you have not one, but two giant gators down there in the crawl space with you, with who knows how many more gators outside the home, should you make it out of said crawl space.
Part disaster film, part creature feature, 2019’s Crawl is that scenario, and that makes for a fun little romp in Florida. Produced by Sami Raimi (Evil Dead fame) and released by Paramount Pictures, this is a taut, tension-filled flick with a little bit of heart in between the snapping jaws of the gators. The film stars Kaya Scodelario as Haley Keller, who is a swimmer in an apt skill set for the film, and Barry Pepper, as her father, Dave. Both are the primary characters, including the unnamed gators, and anyone else in the flick basically exists to show us what happens when a gator feeds on a human. Oh, and there’s Sugar, the family dog. Horror movies never kill dogs anymore, and I, for one, am grateful for that (and apparently, it was a question of creative debate).
Alexandre Aja directs, and he’s done a few of my favorite horror films of the 2000s: 2006’s The Hills Have Eyes remake, and more importantly, one of the best films of the New French Extremity movement, 2003’s High Tension. Aja gives us a few neat visuals, like the point-of-view of the gators when they’re underwater on the hunt, and one of the gators crawling through the drain pipe. The best is a giant gator swooping in after Haley when she tries to escape into a bathroom. She then tricks the gator into the shower to trap it.
One of the amusing things about the technical side is that the first shot of the gator when it explodes through the crawl space after Haley when she’s trying to rescue her dad? It’s probably the worst shot of the gators in the film, in that it looks too fake. From then on, though, all the shots of the gators look realistic and menacing.
You certainly have to suspend your disbelief, which I’m fine with doing, because Haley and Dave both survive a number of gator attacks that are unbelievable. For example, Haley toward the end in the final dramatic encounter, is literally in the gator roll, and has the wherewithal to still grab a flare and stick it in the gator’s eye to escape. No. If you’re in a gator roll, it’s game over. There’s no way you’re able to still fight back. We’re pathetic against 10 to 14 feet gators that weigh between 500 and 1,000 pounds doing their high-speed gator roll. I mean, come on.
Also, great swimmers or not, Michael Phelps, the fastest swimmer perhaps who has ever lived, swam at a whopping … six miles per hour. The average gator swims at … 20 miles per hour. We’d be soggy toast.
But it’s a creator feature, and it’s fun. It does the classic storytelling to Haley and Dave: We think they’ve made it, and then something else goes wrong. Then we think they’ve made it again, and again, something else goes wrong. Until they finally do make it. Scodelario has rightly been praised for her performance. The Rottentomatoes consensus reads, “An action-packed creature feature that’s fast, terrifying, and benefits greatly from a completely game Kaya Scodelario, Crawl is a fun throw-back with just enough self-awareness to work.”
It’s a film that knows what it is, leans into it, has fun, delivers up some tense moments, some heart, and isn’t a bad way to spend 85 minutes of your time. I’d give it two thumbs being munched on by gators.
If you’ve seen this film, what did you think? Do you tend to like creature features/disaster flicks?