After giving the world such horror classics as High Tension, the 2006 remake of The Hills Have Eyes, and Piranha 3D, director Alexandre Aja returned with another ultra-violent horror/thriller with Crawl. His earlier films were famous for being incredibly visceral, and in some ways Crawl keeps this tradition. It has its moments, but ultimately, it fails to live up to Aja’s previously filmography.
B-Movie Monster Horror
The film doesn’t waste much time jumping right into the plot. Hailey (Kaya Scodelario) is a competitive swimmer at college in Florida, and as a massive hurricane makes landfall, she travels into the heart of it to check on her father (Barry Pepper). As the basement of her father’s house floods, she finds him trapped, at the mercy of an alligator. Soon, even more flood waters rush into the house and city, bringing with it more alligators.
Crawl really shines during its suspenseful alligator moments, although sometimes the CGI seems a bit fake. Aja really knows how to build tension, and while it does rely on jump scares, none of them feel cheap. By the end, we feel exhausted like Hailey does due to the nonstop adrenaline and suspense.
It’s a seemingly simple plot, but incredibly effective due to the ferocity of the alligators. In a strange way, they seem more threatening than a typical horror movie monster, because they’re very real and known for their aggression.
Takes Itself Too Seriously
There are moment of fun horror campiness and monster terror, and honestly, the only thing that holds the film back is the occasional family melodrama. It’s kind of a cheesy plot, and at times, the film really knows it and runs with it.
But other times, it tries very hard to force a character arc for Hailey and her dad, as they realize that they’re both very stubborn in a similar way. They also confront their issues with her parents’ recent divorce.
It may sound very strange to criticize a film for having too much character development, but it’s handled in a very TV-movie fashion and it doesn’t mesh well with the campy awesomeness of the alligator attacks.
Either the film needed to double down and go all out with its cheesy but fun nature, or it needed to have better character drama so to justify it presence. Because the result was a weird mashup of tones that don’t really match.
Overall, Crawl is still legitimately tense and quite entertaining. It’s one of those films that’s more of an experience, especially on the big screen. It probably should have taken itself less seriously with its melodramatic moments, but it’s still lots of fun, and will make for an excellent go-to film to watch during a storm!