After ‘while, crocodile.
Crawl (2019): 7 out of 10: Crawl is a competently lensed and acted creature feature about a father and daughter trapped in a basement during a category five hurricane with a couple of angry alligators.
The Good: As an unabashed fan of creature features, it is always a pleasure to get one that is well directed and well acted with top of the line special effects. Director Alexandre Aja has brought the goods before (Piranha 3D) and while this is not nearly as fun a romp as that film was it is quite an enjoyable ride.
First of all, kudos to a film in 2020 with an eighty-seven minute run time. There is barely an ounce of fat on this thriller, and it shows. We get to the flooding basement, category five hurricane, and alligators in relative short order with an okay backstory scattered throughout and told both visually as well as through dialogue.
Both Kaya Scodelario as the daughter and Barry Pepper as her dad do a solid turn, not distracting from the tension with poor performances. Everyone else in the film is either a dog, a voice on the phone, or alligator chow, so these two really have to carry the entire film on their backs. (Not to say the dog doesn’t do good work here, mind you.)
Last of all, the special effects are excellent. With a gracious nod to Jurassic Park’s velociraptors, the alligators are appropriately menacing yet realistically sized and rendered with makes them a more realistic threat.
The Bad: The movie has solid effects and just enough cannon fodder for a creature feature. Director Alexandre Aja is not afraid of exploitation nor is he afraid to let the monsters win so both certainly could be in play here. Except they really aren’t. Our characters are seriously injured in one scene but seem to shake it off the next as the script needs them to. (How the father is not in shock is beyond me). There is not really a sense that anyone can die at anytime that would benefit such a film. The alligator chow might as well be wearing chickens around their necks, they are so obvious. Adding a third principal character and killing them off unexpectedly (a mom or sister perhaps) would have done wonders for the tension of the film.
Now I am not expecting the over the top exploitation nudity of Pirana 3d or the over the top violence of Aja’s The Hills Have Eyes remake or High Tension, but why is Crawl rated R? There is no nudity (Outside of a girl’s locker room scene at a swim meet in the beginning of the film there really isn’t any appropriate opportunity for such. This is a father and daughter trapped in a basement, after all.) There really isn’t much gore either. Certainly nothing unexpected in a creature feature. The gore is basically on the same level as Jaws with better creature effects. This is hardly a deal breaker (I enjoy a good family friendly creature feature) rather it is a curiosity. I wonder if they snuck in a few swear words just to get the ”R” rating for marketing.
The Ugly: This film takes pace in central Florida during a hurricane very much like Irma. This film was shot in Belgrade, Serbia so there is going to be some nitpicks (Um Florida doesn’t have license plates on the front of cars… Um Alligators have their nests outside not in tunnels… Um rescue helicopters don’t fly during the actual hurricane.) I am not here to do that kind of nitpicking. I am here to do a different kind.
The film keeps talking about a category five hurricane. There is no category five hurricane shown in the film. There is no visibility in a Cat 5 so you certainly would not be able to see the people at the convenience store across the street. You cannot hear anything in a category five so calling for help is right out (Even a category two sounds like a collection of freight trains outside your window.) That old wooden three-story house you are in would not come anywhere close to surviving a Cat 5. I assume the screenwriter was basing the storm on Irma that was a category five for much of its life without realising how short this film would be had a Cat 5 hit those two in that house.
First, take a look at how large your basement is. If you are in Florida, you have not done this yet because you don’t have a basement. In fact, you probably don’t have a crawlspace either unless you live in a house over seventy years old.
Even worse, the basement in Crawl is like Dr. Who’s Tardis. It’s giant with hidden rooms and a tunnel leading out to a lake as if the homeowner was a drug smuggler or a Bond villain, perhaps. Honestly, in a basement for such a house you should never be more than ten yards from the stairs. Here they get trapped in rooms behind pipes around alcoves. (there is also a small opening behind them to outside that lets in light (and eventually water) indicating that someone finished the first story of a raised house (A theory which the exterior of the house does not support.). I mean, they have tools with them. Knock a hole in the wall and get out that way.
In Conclusion: Overall a creature feature with a wonderful script, special effects, and good acting to boot. You don’t kick that out of bed for eating crackers (And other Floridians).