Sometimes it’s not about re-inventing the wheel when it comes to giving movie fans a great time at the movies. You just have to give them something entertaining and with some semblance of substance. While “Crawl” is something we’ve seen before, it has that special touch that only Alexandre Aja can inject. The same thing he did for Piranhas in his remake of “Piranha,” he does for alligators in “Crawl” offering a wonderful survival thriller that’s also a subtle commentary on global warming.
When a massive hurricane hits her Florida hometown, Haley (Kaya Scodelario) ignores evacuation orders to search for her missing father Dave (Barry Pepper). Finding him gravely injured in the crawl space of their old family home, the two become trapped by quickly approaching and rising floodwaters. As time runs out to escape the strengthening storm, and freezing sea water, Haley and her father discover that the rising water level is the least of their fears. They also have to fight to escape the clutches of a congregation of hungry, cunning alligators.
Per typical Aja fashion, he never lets his characters off the hook in what is one of the most emotionally punishing horror films I’ve seen in years. “Crawl” is a mix of a man vs. nature horror film, and a disaster picture that pits two people struggling against impossible odds from minute one. “Crawl” thrives on simplicity, even boiling its entire cast down to two characters and a dog. Nothing else really matters in what becomes a genuinely torturous emotional battle of a young girl trying everything she can to save her father. As the water levels rise, and the storm roughens up, there’s never a sure bet either of these individuals are going to see the closing credits.
Aja creates an almost Sisyphean mission between these two as every time there is progress made during their survival, there’s always something new that makes them slide deeper and deeper. “Crawl” can even be something of a metaphor for the tumultuous relationship between Haley and her father Dave, both of whom have been distant for most of their lives. With the storm and water crashing in at all corners, Haley has to struggle through the waves to get to him, and even battle monsters that threaten to pull them a part at every turn. To add to that theory, Haley even has to muster up her swimming abilities more often than she realizes in order to save herself and her father.
Although it is a bit repetitive by the finale, “Crawl” excels with some great set pieces, brutal tension, and startling gore doled by the alligators. They’re vicious, hungry, and unforgiving, and there’s always that threat lingering every moment the water rises. Barry Pepper is great, but Kaya Scodelario fuels the film with her fierce portrayal of this relentless young girl who fights literal tooth and nail to ensure the survival of the only family she has left in the world. “Crawl” is great, especially if you’re in the mood something simple, but exciting, gory, and surprisingly touching. I had a blast, and I hope we can see a sequel somewhere down the line.