Crawl is a gator-chomping, appendage-shredding thrill ride at the movies. French horror director Alexandre Aja raises his primal fear game. Crawl cuts the fat and gets down to its nasty business quickly. The lean trimmings left is a desperate fight for survival against terrifying creatures in a battering hurricane. It's pure B-movie formula shot with exquisite skill. Hold on to your popcorn, because Crawl will have you jumping out of your seat.
Kaya Scodelario stars as Haley Keller, a collegiate swimmer at the University of Florida. She gets a panicked call from her sister (Morfydd Clark) after a disastrous competition. Why hasn't she been answering her phone? Doesn't she realize there's a category five hurricane headed for their hometown? When was the last time she spoke to their father (Barry Pepper)? He's been out of touch as well.
Haley drives home to check on her father. She ignores police warnings and roadblocks along the way. Rain pours down as the sky darkens with the impending storm. The radio alerts her that levees have been breached. The town will be flooded. She arrives at her father's apartment, but he's nowhere to be found. Haley decides to search for him at her childhood home. What she finds is completely unexpected, and ravenously hungry.
Related: Crawl Trailer Unleashes Hungry Alligators During a Roaring Hurricane
Haley is confined to tight, dark spaces, oozing with mud and filling up with water. You can feel the walls caving in as she scurries for safety behind pipes. The low growl of the gators can be heard in the pitch blackness. The prehistoric beasts lurk in the corners, or even worse, gliding stealthily underneath the water. You will be genuinely caught off guard when the gators attack. Crawl does not broadcast the scares. The script by Shawn and Michael Rasmussen prey successfully on multiple phobias.
Alexandre Aja (The Hills Have Eyes, Horns) does an excellent job selling his premise. He uses brilliant camera placement and lighting to amplify a desperate situation. He shoots a frightened Haley close-up, then cuts away to the murky immediate surroundings. She constantly winds her emergency flashlight to see mere steps ahead. Her uncertain point of view builds anticipation to a fever pitch in a dangerous environment. The expensive visual effects are used on the hurricane and CGI alligators, but the scenes under and through the house are pivotal. That is where the terror lies. Alexandre Aja is a formidable talent in the horror genre.
Kaya Scodelario has eighty percent of the screen time in this film. Crawl works because she is believable. This isn't a scream queen horror flick. The actress delivers a gutsy, exhaustingly physical performance. She's bloodied, muddy, and soaking wet throughout. I was familiar with her work from The Maze Runner trilogy and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. Kaya Scodelario takes center stage spectacularly. She's a tough as nails protagonist.
Crawl can be marketed as an equal parts horror, disaster, and psychological thriller. The basic elements are formulaic, but the delivery is much better than expected. Crawl may be the surprise sleeper hit of the summer. On a whole other tangent, as a University of Florida graduate, it was entertaining to see my Alma mater prominently displayed in a kick-ass film. Inserting a gratuitous "Go Gators" and "Gator Chomp" here. Crawl is produced by Ghost House Pictures and Raimi Productions with distribution from Paramount Pictures.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Movieweb. Julian RomanFilm critic, raconteur, praying for dolphins to grow thumbs and do better.