*** THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS AND A COUPLE OF SWEARS (LIFTED FROM THE MOVIE’S DIALOGUE) ***
As a Category 5 hurricane heads towards her hometown in Florida, competitive swimmer Haley (Kaya Scodelario) is advised by her sister – via FaceTime from Boston – that she should probably check in on their dad Dave (Barry Pepper) as he hasn’t been answering his phone. Driving down into the path of an increasingly ferocious storm, Haley ignores the warnings from local law enforcement and heads to her pop’s condo where she initially discovers all of his belongings but not the bloke himself.
However, the entry to the basement is open so maybe she should have a quick look in there, just in case her dad’s injured and unconscious and there’s a whopping bloody alligator lumbering around…
From there on in, Alexandre Aja’s gatorfest kicks into gear, pitting our dad/daughter team against “pea-brained lizard shits” (as Dave puts it so colourfully) in a game of cat and mouse – sorry, gator and human – played in, on and around a homestead steadily filling with water and with little chance of anyone turning up to provide the possibility of a rescue.
Well, I say that, but a few people do drift into the waterlogged town during the proceedings but it’s not a huge surprise that, be their intentions benign or otherwise, they end up on the menu in a handful of pleasingly crafted set-pieces with a splash of gore on the side.
In between the sequences of watery mayhem, there’s time for Haley and Dave to work on their Family Issues, of which there are plenty. Dave was Haley’s swimming coach when she was a kid, but things between them have soured since and there’s a not-unexpected reference to the Mom Who Walked Out. The back and forth is often played out during the stalk and slash – or should that be swim and snap? – scenes so the movie doesn’t get overly bogged down in all of that soul-searching nonsense. It has other nonsense on its mind.
And what lively nonsense it is, piling on more bad luck for our protagonists than if they’d blown up a mirror factory, leading to a point at which an exasperated Haley utters the line “You gotta be fucking kidding me”. There is an argument to be made that the further Crawl goes the greater the overall credibility of the piece is stretched but when your start point is biblical flooding and a group of murderous alligators then you’re going to either (death) roll with it or not.
If you’re there to disengage the brain and simply enjoy the spectacle there’s much to enjoy. Aja is a dab hand at generating suspense (although the jump scares are disappointingly easy to anticipate), Scodelario makes something of a crowd-pleasing Ripleyesque transformation as the story heads towards the all-or-nothing bid for ultimate safety and Pepper is agreeably grouchy as the father who sees this particular kid as an “apex predator”. Plus, it has a third and no less important member of the team in Sugar the dog, a creature so engaging and full of personality you’ll be poised to tweet Paramount during the film if the writers even dare to consider killing it off.
NOTE: Don’t tweet during movies. It’s not cool. Save it for later. END OF PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT. Back to the review.
Slight but fun, Crawl – much like Haley in her aquatic endeavours – doesn’t pause for too many breaths and crucially, for a film of this type, it runs for under an hour and a half. And then closes with, you guessed, “See You Later, Alligator” on the soundtrack. They might as well have had someone walk on and wink at the audience. This film may not linger long in the memory but as a cinematic rollercoaster it fits the bill quite nicely without ever being the classic Friday night crowd pleaser I hoped it would be. Still, pass the popcorn.
Rating: 3.5 / 5