When it comes to blood-gushing, nerve-breaking B-movie horror-thriller, “Splat Pack” member, Alexandre Aja has quite a reputation for making the most memorable ones (Haute Tension, Piranha 3D, The Hills Have Eyes remake). Crawl makes his return to the B-movie territory, where he stages nature disaster to, once again, unleash freshwater predators to run amok and hunt a group of poor humans. And yet, his new tenure is a more audience-friendly and less brutal killer compared to his other movies; as Crawl highlights the suspenseful process over the blood-gushing result.
It revolves around a young woman named Haley (Kaya Scodelario), who struggles to keep her position in the college’s swimming team in order to retain her scholarship. When his father (Barry Pepper) gone MIA on the brink of the coming Category 5 hurricane, she ignores the evacuation warning and goes looking for his father. Unbeknownst to her, she only finds herself trapped in a flooded neighborhood where hungry alligators are set loose. With hurricane storming and alligator crawling in the dark, the protagonist is trapped in a suspenseful dead end, which might remind you to Fede Alvarez’s Don’t Breathe.
Crawl refuses to take the thrill slowly; it will take the audiences to the crime scene as quickly as it can while planting some important details along the way. The wind howls, the sky turns black and the water level starts to arise; everything that can go wrong in this movie will certainly go wrong. A larger portion of the movie is spent in the basement of Haley’s old house where she finally finds her incapacitated father lying on the muddy crawlspace with broken bones and open wounds. We know for sure that she’s just entering the deathtrap; the whole process is uncomfortable to watch.
The setting and the lurking danger blend in to bring a real sense of claustrophobia that keeps haunting for the whole duration. Aja knows precisely and effectively how to exploit the basement for the sake of thrills, even further, the danger is amplified with the water debits that flood the crawlspace. With Aja, the claustrophobia does not attach to the setting, it’s attached to the sense; the whole thing is almost inescapable. Given the setting and the potential that it has, the movie often resorts to the inevitable jump-scares, which luckily is wisely incorporated. As the story progresses, the story begins to unravel the importance of some details planted previously including Haley’s swimming prowess to give this survival thriller a chance for a joyride.
From the narrative point of view, Crawls is nothing spectacular—aside from the genre-hybrid that becomes its strict premise. It’s basically another disaster movie relying on the principles of Murphy’s Law. However, the script penned by Rasmussen Brothers manages to slip out a sympathetic father-daughter relationship which becomes the motor that keeps the narrative forward. This, too, is actually pretty formulaic (recent movies that devices such narrative is Mandy Moore’s 47 Meters Down), but, it effectively wraps the whole suspenseful setup with sympathy.
While formulaic, Crawl sees Alexandre Aja delivering a hybrid thriller which effectively puts you at the edge of the seat as the sheer dangers keep making your skin crawls. Apparently, this movie will go down in history as one of the most crucial crocodile movies. It’s a warm welcome for Aja to a more blockbuster-minder horror, which he apparently can handle optimally.