Crawl

Director: Alexandre Aja
Screenplay: Michael Rasmussen & Shawn Rasmussen
Stars: Kaya Scodelario (Haley), Barry Pepper (Dave), Morfydd Clark (Beth), Ross Anderson (Wayne), Jose Palma (Pete), George Somner (Marv), Anson Boon (Stan), Ami Metcalf (Lee), Tina Pribicevic (Young Haley), Srna Vasiljevic (Louie)
MPAA Rating: R
Year of Release: 2019
Country: U.S.
Crawl
Crawl

One of the things I appreciated about Crawl is the way it introduces its monstrous alligators. There is no slow build-up, no dropping of hints about their presence, no mysterious gator-POV shots to alert us, as pretty much every revenge-of-nature monster movie has done since at least Jaws (1975). Of course, we know the alligators are there, and we know they are going to show up at some point because, after all, if you’re watching the movie you’re doing so because you want to watch a movie about people being terrorized and eaten by enormous alligators during a hurricane. So, when the first alligator (of many) suddenly and violently crashes into view at a genuinely unexpected moment with no real build-up whatsoever, it comes as a delightful B-movie surprise—the kind that doesn’t feel cheap, but rather giddy in its silly-delirious enjoyment of goosing an audience itching to be goosed.

Crawl is not quite a masterpiece of B-movie thrills, but it is a very good one—simple, direct, and efficient in what it’s doing. The set-up is this: a collegiate swimmer named Haley (Kaya Scodelario) drives into the middle of an approaching hurricane along the Florida coastline to check on her estranged father, Dave (Barry Pepper), who has recently been divorced by her mother and isn’t answering his phone. Haley’s older sister, Beth (Morfydd Clark), who is married and living in Boston, is concerned, as is Haley, although she and Dave have recently had a fight and haven’t spoken in weeks. There are hints that Haley is angry about his divorce and other things, as well; she is an intense and extremely competitive person (note the look she gives the teammate to whom she loses in the opening swim practice scene), so it’s not hard to imagine that she holds grudges quite intently.

Nevertheless, she goes against all advice and drives into the encroaching storm, eventually winding up at the massive, three-story old house where she grew up. She finds Dave unconscious in the crawl space under the house, where he was making repairs before somehow injuring himself terribly. After that first gator shows up and he regains consciousness, we learn that he was attacked, and after that it is essentially he and Haley against both an increasing number of vicious, aggressive, growly, and very hungry alligators and the rising water in the crawl space as the hurricane rages outside. There are a few other characters scattered around, including a friendly police officer (Ross Anderson) and a trio of looters, but we know they exist largely to provide human fodder for the alligators. Haley and Dave’s survival is never entirely in question, although screenwriters Michael Rasmussen and Shawn Rasmussen (The Ward) put them through the wringer as much as possible, offering multiple opportunities for them to be torn limb from limb. Instead, they are mostly gnawed on and tossed around and snapped at a whole lot, which draws a lot of blood and puts them in constant grave danger. There are a few moments of respite and at least one “big talk” scene where Haley and Dave are able to put all their baggage on the table, but mostly they’re screaming and yelling and gasping for breath and staring wide-eyed at what will surely be their imminent demise.

Director Alexandre Aja’s previous films, including his French-language breakthrough slasher thriller Haute tension (2003) and his remakes of The Hills Have Eyes (2006) and Piranha (2010), were increasingly gory and grotesque, but he keeps things fairly tame here, relying more on suspense and scares than outré gross-out moments (we do get one high-angle shot of a victim literally being torn apart by the gators and a wince-inducing moment in which a character’s arm is snapped in half while clenched in a gator’s jaws). Aja revels in the inherent claustrophobia of the film’s primary setting, with Haley and Dave scurrying around in a space in which they can’t even stand fully upright while trying to evade the gators. Things open up in the film’s last third, and there’s a fantastic bit in a flooding bathroom where Haley finds herself trapped inside the shower while a gator slams against the glass door. None of this is particularly original, but Crawl does what it does with such gleeful, unapologetic panache that you can’t help but enjoy it.

Crawl Blu-ray + DVD + Digital

Aspect Ratio2.39:1
Audio
  • English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround
  • Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
  • French Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
  • Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
  • Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
  • Thai Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
  • Subtitles English, French, Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish, Cantonese, Hindi, Korean, Malay, Mandarin, Thai
    Supplements
  • Alternate opening with optional introduction by director Alexandre Aja
  • Deleted and Extended Scenes
  • “Beneath Crawl” featurette
  • “Category 5 Gators: The VFX of Crawl” featurette
  • “Alligator Attacks” montage
  • DistributorParamount Home Entertainment
    Release DateOctober 15, 2019

    COMMENTS
    Crawl looks quite excellent in its 1080p/AVC-encoded presentation. The film was shot digitally on the Arri Alexa, so this is a direct digital port, and it looks clear, sharp, and very finely detailed. Colors and flesh tones look good, and black levels and shadow detail are spot-on. Much of the film takes place in gloomy darkness, especially the lengthy sequence in the crawl space, and the image on the disc maintains strong contrast and detail even in the dimmest corners of the frame. The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1-channel soundtrack does its work extremely well, with great directionality and surround effects to give the suspense and scares plenty of punch. The supplements are about as entertaining as the film itself, and they will definitely enhance your appreciation of what the filmmakers pulled off. We start off with a never-shot alternate opening involving a family being attacked by gators in the floodwaters that is presented as a five-minute motion comic with an optional introduction by director Alexandre Aja (it’s a good thing they dropped this opening scene because it would not have added to the film at all). We also get six minutes of deleted and extended scenes, all of which were rightfully cut. The really good stuff comes with two behind-the-scenes featutrettes, the nearly 30-minute “Beneath Crawl” and the 12-minute “Category 5 Gators: The VFX of Crawl.” The first featurette covers the entirety of the production, with particular emphasis on the intensely physical nature of the shoot in a warehouse in Serbia where they built the flooding neighborhood from the ground up and engaged all manner of practical special effects and production design. The second focuses specifically on the digital effects used to bring the gators to life. And, finally we have “Alligator Attacks,” which is essentially a 90-second montage of all the film’s gator attacks for those who don’t want to be bothered with story and character.

    Copyright © 2019 James Kendrick

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    All images copyright © Paramount Home Entertainment

    Overall Rating: (3)



    James Kendrick

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