Crawl (2019) Jul 13, 2019 16:22:16 GMT -5
Post by StevePulaski on Jul 13, 2019 16:22:16 GMT -5
Directed by: Alexandre Aja
Directed by: Alexandre Aja
An alligator swims through murky waters in Crawl.
Some movies, to no fault of their own, appear tactless upon release because the climate optically perceives their very existence as insensitive. Consider Eli Roth's gun-toting, vigilante remake of Death Wish, which, after being delayed allegedly because of the mass shooting in Las Vegas, was released with the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting still fresh in the minds of many. Now consider Alexandre Aja's Crawl, which comes out the same weekend Hurricane Barry nails New Orleans and a gator is currently lurking in the Chicagoland Humboldt Park River. Rarely does a film loan itself to such unintentional secondary marketing.
This summer, my friends, is for the gators, not the sharks, and after the past few mainstream B-movie offerings were The Shallows and 47 Meters Down, it's about time another aquatic menace gets its due. Crawl is destined to be mentioned along the likes of Lake Placid as one of the best contemporary creature features, thanks to its skillful underwater videography, credible suspense, and plentiful bone-chilling chomps and scenes of dismemberment.
The bulk of the film takes place in the dilapidated, on-the-market home of Dave (Barry Pepper) and his daughter Haley (Kaya Scodelario), which resides on the Florida coast. The two have a contentious relationship thanks to Dave serving as Haley's swim-coach from a young age and continuously enforcing a "tough love" attitude on her with the emphasis evidently on the first part. Alas, Haley, who is now in college, can't get in touch with her father as a Category 5 hurricane is set to ravage the state, prompting her to drive through a closed-off stretch of road in order to find him.
She eventually arrives at her old house and finds her father badly injured in the crawlspace. Already barely alive and bleeding profusely, she discovers he is being stalked by a ravenous gator in the already low-level space. Soon enough, water begins spilling into the crawlspace, set to submerge the two unless they act quickly and find their way through pipes, wires, and the ornery creatures, who soon multiply once the water outside and inside rises. Punctuating narrow passage ways in the form of drain pipes and barely accessible climbs are hasty but necessary conversations between a father and daughter, who might die loathing each other unless they get some things off their chests.
Some will find the banter between Dave and Haley contrived, especially when Dave gives his daughter pep-talks, praising her athletic and swimming ability as she desperately tries to find a way out for the both of them. For me, however, I feel it works in the realm of light but passable humanization. In many disaster movies, such as last year's abomination that was The Hurricane Heist, you'd be hard-pressed to care about the characters one iota, let alone their personal plights unrelated to the central calamity. Brothers Michael and Shawn Rasmussen thoughtfully incorporate the more serious dialog between the two characters, as interjections and conversational asides, always quick to make sure it never gets in the way of the suspense the two manage to enact over the course of the brief 87 minutes.
The real star of Crawl is the gators, and the film has enough to satisfy those looking for a thrill to go along with the suspense. Unlike sharks, which look relatively peaceful in their unbothered state, alligators always look like they could devour you without empathy. Aja's direction and the tireless, overlooked team of special effects artists capitalize on this by making the gators look practical, if occasionally too acrobatic. Some of the film's most immersive sequences come just from watching the predators seek their prey. The sequence of Haley swimming through a large pipe and seeing a gator casually swim against the other opening is serene despite the obvious terror and vulnerability it evokes. Aja — who famously directed Piranha at the dawn of the decade — navigates the filthy, murky waters of a torrential downpour better than he did in his aforementioned flick, retaining clarity and, in turn, generating fiercely watchable terror because we can constantly see what is happening.
Crawl is a bit of nasty summer fun, perhaps more suitable for those who don't have the patience nor desire to be chilled in quite the same way as Ari Aster's Midsommar, and that's not a bad thing. In the summer, we like lighter food, sweeter, aqueous beverages, and maybe our films a bit on the sillier side. Where Crawl strikes its most equitable balance is in delivering the expected jolts while packaging them in a sleek, fluently entertaining gift to those who still want to see the creature feature thrive in mainstream cinema.
Starring: Kaya Scodelario and Barry Pepper. Directed by: Alexandre Aja.